ArticlePDF Available

A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences


Content may be subject to copyright.
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School
Arnoud Braun
, Janice Jiggins, Niels Röling, Henk van den Berg and
Paul Snijders
Report prepared for the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
Final Report, 12 June 2006
Rietveldlaan 3
6708 SN Wageningen
The Netherlands
Corresponding author:; for authors’ profiles and contact
addresses, see Appendix III
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
Table of contents
TABLE OF CONTENTS..................................................................................................I
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS AND ACRONYMS ...........................................................III
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY .............................................................................................VII
1. INTRODUCTION....................................................................................................... 1
3. CURRENT GLOBAL STATUS OF FARMER FIELD SCHOOLS............................. 7
Evolution of FFSs in Asian FAO Programmes and Community IPM...................................8
NGOs in Asia.........................................................................................................................8
Recent adaptations and developments....................................................................................9
Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).........................................................................................................9
South America and the Caribbean............................................................................................11
Responding to public sector collapse through collaboration ...............................................11
Strengthening research and community-based agricultural development through FFS ......11
Near East and North Africa......................................................................................................13
Central and Eastern Europe......................................................................................................14
Farmer Livestock School experiences......................................................................................14
4. THE BROADER PICTURE ..................................................................................... 15
Approaches based on extension and training...........................................................................15
Learning-based approaches......................................................................................................17
Intermediate forms of innovation systems...........................................................................18
Comparative studies.............................................................................................................19
What can we expect the FFS to achieve?.................................................................................19
5. IMPACT OF FARMER FIELD SCHOOLS .............................................................. 23
Complexity of impact evaluation.............................................................................................25
Natural and economic impact...................................................................................................26
Human and social impact.........................................................................................................27
Dissemination of impact...........................................................................................................28
Institutional impacts.................................................................................................................29
Integrating the body of experience with extension, information and education through using
the model of the livestock farmer as a cognitive agent............................................................31
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
The model of the cognitive agent explained............................................................................31
The Cognitive Agent as a “coat hanger” for understanding attempts to inform, train, educate,
organise and otherwise change livestock farmers....................................................................32
A brief overview of attempts to address the cognitive needs of livestock farmers..................34
Public extension services .....................................................................................................35
Farmers organizations, producer associations and other common interest groups..............36
Private extension..................................................................................................................36
Non Governmental Organizations........................................................................................37
Public-private partnerships...................................................................................................37
Public markets, mass media, networks, expertise centers....................................................37
FARMER INNOVATION? ............................................................................................ 38
RELATION TO LIVESTOCK FFS?..............................................................................44
11. REFERENCES...................................................................................................... 46
Sub-Saharan Africa..................................................................................................................70
South and Central America, and the Caribbean.......................................................................76
North America..........................................................................................................................79
Near East and North Africa......................................................................................................79
Eastern Europe .........................................................................................................................81
APPENDIX III. AUTHORS’ PROFILES ......................................................................91
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
List of abbreviations and acronyms
AAA Armenian Agricultural Academy
AAS Academy of Agricultural Sciences
AECI Agencia Espanola de Cooperacion Internacional
AID Association for Integrated Development
ARC Agricultural Research Corporation
AREX Agricultural Research and Extension Department (Govt of Zimbabwe)
AsDB Asian Development Bank
ASPS Agricultural Sector Programme Support
ATC Advisory Training Centre
CDB Cotton Development Board
CENTA Centro Nacional de Tecnolgia Agropecuaria
CFC Common Fund for Commodities
CODA Cotton Development Authority
CORPOICA Corporación Colombiana de Investigación Agropecuaria
COSUDE Agenzia Suiza para el Desarrollo y la Cooperacion
DAALI Department of Agronomy and Agricultural Land Improvement
DAE Department of Agricultural Extension
DANIDA Danish International Development Assistance
DPPQS Directorate of Plant Protection Quarantine and Storage
DAALI Department of Agronomy and Agricultural Land Improvement
DAE Department of Agricultural Extension
DED German Development Service
DLGs District Local Governments
DoAE Department of Agriculture Extension
DoA Department of Agriculture
DoI Department of Irrigation
DGPCQPA Direction Générale de la Protection et du Contrôle de la Qualité des
Produits Agricoles
DR Democratic Republic
DRC Danish Refugee Council
DSFL Dry Season Feeding of Livestock
ETL Economic Threshold Level
FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
FEDEPAPA Federación Colombiana de Productores De Papa
FINNIDA Finnish Development Assistance
FLS Farmer Life Schools
FlivS Farmer Livestock Schools
FFS Farmer Field School
FFSs Farmer Field Schools
FU Fertilizer Unit
GoC Government of China
GoE Government of Egypt
GoI Government of Indonesia
GoP Government of the Philippines
GoPa Government of Pakistan
GoT Government of Thailand
GO-INTERFISH Greater Opportunities for Integrated Rice-Fish Production Systems
GRDB Guyana Rice Development Board
GRPA Guyana Rice Producers Association
GSMoA Gezira State Ministry of Agriculture
HMG/N His Majesty’s Government of Nepal
IARD Institute of Agricultural Research for Development
IARS Ismailia Agricultural Research Station
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
IBAFFS Institute for Biological Agriculture and Farmer Field Schools
ICB International Consulting Bureau
ICM Integrated Crop Management
ICP Inter-Country Programme
IER Institut d’Economie Rurale
IM Integrated Management
INRA National Institution for Agricultural Research
INRAA Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique d’Algérie
INRAT National Institute for Agricultural Research of Tunisia
IPM Integrated Pest Management
IPPM Integrated Production and Pest Management
ISWNM Integrated Soil Water and Nutrient Management
ITGC Institut Technique des Grandes Cultures
LIFE Local Initiatives for Farmer Extension
LIFT Local Initiatives for farmer’s Training
LVV Ministerie van Landbouw, Veeteelt en Visserij
MAFF Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
MAFFS Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security
MAC Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives
MAESA Ministry of Agriculture, Education and Social Action
MAG Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganaderia
MAGFOR Ministerio Agropecuario Forestal
MALMR Ministry of Agriculture, Land and and Marine Resources
MAPA Ministério da Agricultura, Pecuária e Abastecimento
MARD Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
MARNDR Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development
MASL Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka
MAWMF Ministry of Agriculture, Water
MAWRD Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development
MAWR Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources
MBESC Ministry of Basic Education, Sports and Culture
MDS Ministério do Desenvolvimento Social e Combate à Fome
MHSS Ministry of Health and Social Services
MoA Ministry of Agriculture
MoAC Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives
MoE Ministry of Education
MTT Finnish Institute of Plant Protection
MWACW Ministry of Women Affair’s and Child Welfar
NARC National Agricultural Research Centre
NARC-Nepal National Agricultural Research Council (Nepal)
NATESC National Agriculture Technical Extension and Service Centre
NBC National Biodiversity Center
ncda no consistent data available
nda no data available
NDRE National Directorate for Rural Extension
NGO Non-Government Organization
NOPEST New Options for Pest Management
NPDP National Potato Development Programme
NRCS Namibia Red Cross Society
NRM Natural Resource Management
OCHA Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN)
OHVN Opération Haute Vallée du Niger
ORC Ohangwena Regional Council
PDA Provincial Department of Agriculture
PDAFF Provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
PPD Plant Protection Department
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
PPI Plant Protection Institute
PPPS Provincial Plant Protection Stations
PPRS Plant Protection Research Institute
PPS Plant Protection Station
PPSD Provincial Plant Protection Sub-Department
PROMIPAC Programa de Manejo Integrado de Plagas en Centroamérica
PTD Participatory Technology Development
RADA Rural Agricultural Development Authority
RAS Rural Advisory Service
RMA Risk Management Agency
RRN Rural Reconstruction Nepal
SDC Swiss Development Coorporation
SEARICE South East Asia Regional Institute for Community Education
SFFP Integrated Soil Fertility and Fertilizer Management Project
SHABGE Strengthening Household Access to Bari (homestead) Gardening Extension
SPI Soil Productivity Improvement
SPPS Strengthening Plant Protection Services Project
STSS Soil Testing and Service Section
TITAN Trainer’s Association of Nepal
ToF Training of Facilitators
ToT Training of Trainers
UNDP United Nations Development Programme
USAID United States Agency for International Development
USDA United States Department of Agriculture
VCC Vietnam Cotton Company
WB World Bank
WN World Neighbours
WNG World Neighbours Guatemala
WR World Relief
WUR Wageningen University and Research Centre
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
The authors wish to thank the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) for granting this
consultancy to the team of authors. Keith Sones, Bruno Minjauw and Kim Groeneweg are specifically
thanked for their comments and inputs to the drafts of this report.
Section 3 and Appenix II would not have been possible without the inputs from a larger group of Farmer
Field School practitioners from around the world. Particular thanks go to Kevin Gallagher for providing
contacts addresses of FFS practitioners. We appreciate the inputs from all FFS practionioners that have
responded to the request for inputs that has been sent out: Clarissa Adami, Iftikhar Ahmad, Souhila
Aouila, Randy Arnst, Fantahun Assefa, Joost Bakkeren, Sajeda Begum, Hein Bijlmakers, Anna Blok,
Mohamed Bouhache, Margriet Bredewold, Robert W. Caudwell, Ngin Chhay, Jacqueline Chenier, Philip
Chung, Naomi Commodore, Loy Van Crowder, Jens Peter Tang Dalsgaard, Soniia David, Russ Dilts,
Deborah Duveskog, Mohamed Elansary, Hans Feijen, Elske van de Fliert, Marjon Fredrix, Esbern Friis-
Hansen, Edson Gandarillas, Lydda Gaviria, Brice Gbaguidi, Moahamad Gomaa, Femke Griffioen, Kim
Groeneweg, Paco Guevara, Daniel Gustafson, Lars Hein, Ole Hendriksen, Alfredo Impiglia,
Jayasundara, Ricardo Labrada, Alida Laurense, Vyju Lopez, Jørgen Karlsen, Ganesh Kumar, Eugenio
Macamo, Francesca Mancini, Dave Masendeke, Michael McGuire, Bruno Minjauw, Kharrat Mohamed,
Hasimi Mzoba, Jacob Ngeve, James Okoth, Peter Ooi, Oscar Ortiz, Palaniswamy Pachagounder, Larry
Paul, Neiburt Phiri, Francis Porras, Yang Puyun, Jan Rijpma, Rodnez Pierre, Alfredo Rueda, Joseph
Rusike, Nune Sarukhanian, Adrian Shuhbeck, Bill Settle, Stephen Sherwood, Manzoor Soomro, Ad
Spijkers, Julianus Thomas, Jan Venema, Janny Vos and her CABI team, Edith van Walsum, Handoko
Widagdo, Esther Wiegers, Siebe van Wijk, Midori Yajima, Piao Yongfan, all participants of the May 2005
Kenya FFS Networking and Coordination workshop and others who have contributed but have not been
Arnoud Braun, Janice Jiggins, Niels Röling, Henk van den Berg and Paul Snijders
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
Executive Summary
1. Farmer Field Schools evolved initially to address the challenge of ecological heterogeneity and local
specificity in pest management, by supporting ecologically-informed decision-making by farmers that
would allow them to reduce pesticide use, improve crop management and secure better profit margins.
2. Classic FFSs rely for their effects on the development of learner-centred curricula for experiential
learning th
at takes place in the field, allowing producers to observe, measure, analyse, assess and
interpret key agro-ecosystem relationships as the basis for making informed management decisions. The
education concepts and principles that underlie the design of curricula and of the learning cycle
process have proven robust in all areas where FFSs have been developed.
3. FFSs have spread rapidly to all continents since th
eir first introduction in 1989 in Indonesia, where
Integrated Pest Management FFSs were developed to help farmers deal with the pesticide-induced
problem of rice brown planthoppers in irrigated rice. As the concept has spread, it has been adapted for
a wide range of crops (including tree crops such as bananas, various high value crops such as vegetables
and fruits, industrial crops such as cotton, cocoa). FFSs curricula and learning processes also have been
developed for t
he livestock sector (dairying, veterinary care, poultry and integrated rice-duck systems,
goat husbandry, aquaculture and fishing), for land productivity issues (land and water management, soil
fertility, land degradation), for a range of social and health issues, such as food security, HIV/AIDS and
vector-born diseases, and environmental issues, such as water quality. These innovations have brought
new types of participants within its ambit, including school children.
4. In the course of the spread, adaptations have been made not only to suit the content and specific
purpose but a
lso in the methodology. Innovations here include community-based selection of
participants, “commercial plots” that enable participants to recover (some of) the costs of running a
school, farmer facilitators, spatially clustered FFFs, and a range of community-based institutional
developments that capitalize on the self-confidence and leadership capacities created through the FFSs.
5. FFSs are not a universal panacea for development,
nor are they a substitute for more familiar
technology-centred or profit-driven approaches to rural development, such as extension, credit
cooperatives, core-estates with outgrowers, farmer training centres, or the use of mass media. They share
some of the features of other participatory approaches, such as Participatory Technology Development,
that seek to catalyse farmer-driven development.
6. On the present evidence they seem best suited for (i) problems and opportunit
ies requiring a
location-dependent decision or management, (ii) issues that entail articulation and implementation of
changes in behavior within the farm enterprise, household, and community or among institutions at
varying scales of interaction, and (iii) situations that can be improved only through development and
application of location-dependent knowledge.
7. Their comparative advantage relies on skilful incorporation of t
he following principles: (i) learner-
centred, field based, experiential learning; (ii) observation, analysis, assessment, and experimentation
over a time period sufficient to understand the dynamics of key (agro-ecological, socio-ecological)
relationships; (iii) peer-reviewed individual and joint decision-making based on learning outcomes; (iv)
individual and group capacity building.
8. They are vulnerable to loss of quality (and thus impact) part
icularly in terms of: (i) poor or
inappropriate curriculum design; (ii) inadequate attention to the quality of the learning process; (iii) poor
or inappropriate facilitation.
9. They are not meant for technology transfer or the delivery of simple messages – as such they do not
a comparative advantage and are also not cost effective for those purposes. FFS were designed to be
time-bound with a built-in exit strategy: graduation. Originally the FFS itself is not meant to be
sustained. However, the impact of FFS in terms of economic, social, environmental and political assets
are hoped to be sustained. Therefore a livelihood analysis is perhaps more appropriate for sustainability
assessments. FFS can be a “stepping stone” to self-sustained groups in some situations. The FFS format
builds sustainable human and social capital needed for next step actions among farmers such as
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
collective marketing of produce and lobbying through farmer networks, savings groups and other
associations that are sustained as independent groups, no longer registered by projects as “outputs”.
10. There is a need for experimention on how the effects of FFSs might be augmented in purposeful
combination with mass media, folk media, extension activities and training.
11. The impacts of FFSs have been variously measured. No agreement as yet exists as to what to
measure, how to measure, or how to assess the results of the measurement of impacts. The lack of
consensus arises in part because of disputes over whether to classify FFS as an educational investment or
as an extension activity and whether the important impacts are those relating to change in practice,
knowledge, or technology used, productivity, and profitability, or whether changes in human and social
capacity, and impacts on human health and the environment, are as important. There is also no
agreement as to the weight to be given to participants’ own appreciation of the difference a FFS might
have made to their lives, compared to objective measurements.
12. A particular concern regarding impact relates to the diffusion effect of FFSs. If the FFS is regarded as
an educational investment, this could be considered the “wrong” question – what a student learns at
school is not expected to diffuse widely to those who do not attend. Preliminary data suggest that
information, and simple practices that can be observed by non-participating farmers, do diffuse from FFS
participants, to some extent, but not the self-confident knowledge and skills in problem-solving required
for the kinds of purposes for which FFSs seem best suited (see point 6, above).
13. Another concern is the sustainability of FFSs impacts. There is insufficient long time series data to
assess this definitively but the weight of the evidence so far suggests a potential for significant longer-
term impact.
14. This appears to be achieved principally through the institutional innovations FFS alumni are able to
set in place, or bring about together with other actors, at local levels. The chances of such innovations
occurring appear to be strengthened if care is given in the implementation phase to the longer term
prospects (e.g. in the processes and criteria used for participant selection and site selection), follow up
support is given to farmer facilitators and FFS alumni, and farmer-driven network development is
15. There has been relatively little experience in adapting the FFS concept to the needs of livestock
farmers. However, there is evidence both from practice and theory that livestock farmers in Africa, too,
are facing the kinds of conditions and challenges noted in point 6 above. They thus could benefit
substantially from further testing of the contribution FFSs might make to meeting producers’ needs for
knowledge, enterprise organisation, and the discovery of location-dependent options for development.
16. FFSs hitherto have tended to focus on bringing a limited set of actors into effective relationships and
social spaces for shared learning. However, to achieve impacts over the longer term in the livestock or
other sectors, as noted in point 13 above, may require changes in larger sets of relationships and
institutional arrangements. Evidence does not support the assumption that “markets” will organise
themselves to set in place the institutional arrangements that would support the achievement of the
Millennium Goals. Overall, the institutional aspects of innovation systems have not been well
appreciated in FFS programmes, nor the effects studied from this perspective. There is scope here too for
further exploration of the role of FFSs from an institutional perspective, i.e. their contribution to
innovation systems that meet the multiple goals desired.
17. On the other hand, it has been emphasised that the sustainable, local-level, institutionalised gains
noted under point 14 above, can be negated or diminished if the framework conditions are hostile or
unsupportive (e.g. policies and regulations that allow or promote the use of toxic chemicals, or that
suppress citizens’ self-organising capacities and initiatives, or that hold farm gate prices down). Action at
other scales and hierarchical levels would be necessary to bring any required adjustment in the
framework conditions.
18. A research organization such as ILRI could make a strong contribution to the further development
and testing of the contribution of FFSs by: (i) supporting the design of science-based curricula and
learning processes suitable for livestock farmers in specific places; (ii) contributing to the methodological
development of impact assessment tools and procedures, as well as carrying out impact assessment
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
studies in the livestock sector; (iii) testing the (limits of the) comparative advantages of FFSs in relation to
the sub-points noted in point 6 above; (iv) exploring how to amplify and augment the impacts of FFSs by
skilful and purposive combination of FFSs with other investments; (v) testing how to support FFSs
alumni so that local level institutional innovations arise and can be sustained; (vi) investigating the role
of FFSs from the perspective of developing location-dependent innovation systems.
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
1. Introduction
The Farmer Field School (FFS) has become an innovative, participatory and interactive model
approach for farmer education in Asia, many parts of Africa, Latin America and more recently also
introduced in the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern/Central Europe. The approach has been used
with a wide range of crops and has subsequently expanded to topics such as livestock, community
forestry, HIV/AIDS, water conservation, soil fertility management, food security and nutrition. The
aim of an FFS is to build farmers’ capacity to analyse their production systems, identify problems, test
possible solutions and eventually adapt the practices most suitable to their farming system. The
knowledge acquired during the learning process enables fa
rmers to adapt their existing technologies
to be more productive, profitable, and responsive to changing conditions, or to test and adopt new
technologies. A short description of the elements of the FFS approach is presented in Appendix I.
FFSs are spreading and adapting at an enormous speed over the globe in terms of geographical
stribution and entry points/topics. However, concerns have been expressed by various
implementing organisations about the relative cost of the FFS approach compared to other extension
approaches, the time consuming character of the approach as well as the impact the FFS approach
achieves. The management of the International Livestock Research Inst
itute (ILRI) would like to know
whether the concerns expressed by others are valid. For this reason ILRI is developing a “Livestock
Farmer Field School position paper” for ILRI management and board, and other interested parties that
will address the fundamental question “How and with what intent should ILRI be working on FFS?”
This review document will serve as a key background document
for the above-ment
ioned ILRI
position paper. This comprehensive review is based on formal and grey literature, and experiences of
the authors
and a network of FFS contacts
. It will address the following key elements:
Origins and evolution of FFS
Current status of FFSs globally (in terms of geographic expansion and in terms of topics),
including global experiences of livest
ock FFS
FFSs in the broader education and extension picture
Impact or lack of impact of FFSs
Effectiveness of the FFS approach for stimulating farmer innovati
Cognitive needs of livestock farmers
How can research organizations, including ILRI, interact with FFSs to increase the efficiency of
their innovations systems?
What researchable quest
ions remain to be answered in relation t
o livestock FFSs?
The references in this report have been numbered (see list of references in section 11). In the text each
reference is referred as follows: (224) – this is reference no. 224 in t
he list of references (section 11).
The authors of this document are Arnoud Braun, Janice Jiggins, Niels Roling, Henk van den Berg and Paul
Snijders. Short FFS-relevant biodata of each of the authors is provided in Appendix III.
A formalised network of FFS contacts does not exist up to this point. However, at the global level the demand
for such a network does exist. Based on this demand Endelea and partners have developed a proposal for funding
a Global FFS Network and Resource Center. A list of contacts will become available through
. As a result of the survey carried out for this review a preliminary contact list of
potential FFS national nodes has been compiled (Appendix 2, Table II.1 - contacts).
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
2. The origins and evolution of Farmer Field Schools
This section will briefly cover the origins and evolution of Farmer Field Schools
The FFS approach emerged out of a concrete, immediate problem. Farmers in Indonesia were putting
their crops, their health and their environment at severe risk through massive abuse of highly toxic
pesticides promoted aggressively by private industry and government. Pest species were becoming
resistant and in some cases resurgent. What was called for was a large-scale decent
ralised programme
of education for farmers wherein they become “experts” in managing the ecology of their fields –
bringing better yields, fewer problems, increased profits and less risk to their health and environment
(68). The Integrated Pest Management Farmer Field School
(IPM-FFS) and a corresponding large-scale Indonesian
programme were developed in response to these conditions. The
genesis of integrated pest management (IPM) was a response to
the emergence of problems associated with the reliance on
chemical controls for insect pests by governments, extension
systems and farmers. The search for solutions to these problems
led to the development of a more holistic view of what
constituted an agro-ecosystem and how human interventions
could either enhance or disrupt one. More on IPM development
in the context of the FFS approach can be found in Chapter 6 of
the book “From farmer field school to community IPM” (224).
FFS alumni are able to not only apply IPM principles in their
fields, but also to master a process enabling them to help others
learn and apply IPM principles, and organise collaborative
activities in their communities to institutionalise IPM principles.
A good field school process ensures these outcomes. The
educational concepts underpinning the FFS approach are drawn
from adult non-formal education. These concepts have been
found to be relevant across the many countries and cultures in which the FFS approach has been used,
and have proven to be empowering for farmers. More on these concepts that underlie the learning
activities found in a field school can be found in Chapter 5 of the book “From farmer field school to
community IPM” (224).
One of the biggest problems with many of the developments in IPM over the years has been the
tendency to generalise and make recommendations for farmers across large and highly heterogeneous
areas. This has been t
rue for all manner of input recommendations including fert
ilisers, pesticides and
rice varieties. This problem, ecological heterogeneity, has also severely limited the effectiveness of
government monitoring and forecasting systems. All of these practical issues vary on a small spatial
scale. This local specificity requires that farmers become (IPM) experts. The main crop protection
approaches since the late 1960s, from the perspective of donor support, are presented in Table 1. The
recommendations or decision criteria of each approach reveal a steady progression in the
accommodation of ecological heterogeneity and farmer control of agro-ecosystem management.
Governments across Asia have enacted policy in support of one or more of the four approaches
presented above. Some countries have supported each of the approaches over the last four decades,
often usi
ng more than one approach at the same time. Countries have often adopted new approaches
without abandoning old approaches, despite glaring contradictions. Presented in roughly
chronological order of emergence from left to right, these four approaches place an increasingly larger
burden on the user in terms of ecological knowledge, observation and analysis. Each successive
approach requires more data for decision-making and the decisions made cover increasingly smaller
units of area and time. This increased precision in decision-making, not surprisingly, has led to better
control of insect pests and reduced use of pesticides. The FFS approach was designed to address the
problem of ecological heterogeneity and local specificity by placing the control of small-scale agro-
ecosystems in the hands of the people who manage them (224).
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
Table 1. Pest control approaches in tropical irrigated rice (224)
Surveillance systems ETL-based decisions
by farmers
Farmers as IPM
Farmers, in this
approach, apply
insecticides based on
number of days post-
sowing or
Goal: prophylactic
control of pest
ons. Relies on
recommendations and
assumes homogeneity
among planting
Developed in 1960s.
Usually an activity of
departments. Based on
ETLs developed at
onal level to be
applied in widely
differing conditions.
Goal: insure national
yield targets achieved
by usiung professional
pest control agents.
Emerged in 1970s as
pesponse to massive
pest outbreaks.
The count-and-spray
approach relies on use
of criteria that assumes
y across all
local agro-ecosystems.
Goal: employ control
cs at
predetermined pest
population levels to
avoid population levels
to avoid economic loss.
ETLs appeared with
advent of surveillance
systems, promoted to
ers in 1980s.
Farmers as decision
makers; decision based
on analysis of agro-
Goal: farmers as IPM
experts taki
ng action
based on analysis of
their agro-ecosystem;
pesticide-free rice
FFSs introduced in
1990, has led to
a rapid
growth in number of
farmer IPM experts.
The first wave of FFS was conducted in 1989 in the rice fields of Indonesia. This involved 200 FFSs in
four districts of Yogyakarta initiated by the Indonesian National IPM Programme with funds from the
Government of Indonesia – United States Agency for International Development (GoI-USAID) and
technical assistance from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). By 1990,
the Indonesian National IPM Programme scaled up and launched 1,800 FFSs for rice IPM in six
provinces in Java, Sumatra and South Sulawesi. Around 1991, the pilot FFSs in IPM for rotation crops
(mainly soybeans) was initiated while the FFS Programme spread out to different countries in Asia
From 1991 to 1994, with support from the FAO Inter-country
IPM Programme, rice IPM-FFSs spread to Bangladesh,
Cambodia, China, India, Lao PDR, Philippines, Sri Lanka and
Vietnam. During this period, the FFS Programme moved from
its single-crop focus to include secondary or rotation crops
within the rice-based systems and also vegetables in both low
and highland systems. NGOs also became involved in further
spreading and developing FFS approaches: CARE Bangladesh
developed such things as rice-fish IPM-FFS; Thai Education
pioneered “IPM in Schools”; and World Education Indonesia
promoted farmer adaptive research approaches. These and
other innovations including gender advocacy, health impact
studies, field ecology, farmer-led action research and farmer
planning were taken up by FAO and national programmes in
order to strengthen and deepen the FFS model (57).
In 1990, an initiative of farmers who graduated from the
In Agroecosystem Analysis (AESA) in the classical FFS, crop growth stages, presence and abundance of pests
and beneficial insects, weather, soil and overall crop conditions in contrasting plots in a FFS, are recorded by
farmers each week on a poster - a large piece of paper – using skethches and symbols. The purpose of the
drawing is to stimulate close observation of ecological and climate features that stimulate the crop.
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
Figure 1. Different experiences in the adaptation of the FFS approach in various settings and contexts as shared during the Yogyakarta
international learning workshop (57)
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
first round of FFS, resulted in the fist Farmer-to-Farmer FFS in Indonesia being started and by 1993,
Farmer-to-Farmer FFSs were established in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Vietnam. From 1995 to 1999, the
Farmer-to-Farmer Programme took roots in China, Lao PDR, Nepal and Sri Lanka (
57) and a farmer-led
FFS is now a standard element in most FFS programmes around the world.
Central to the success of FFS programmes is an appropriate topic and methodological training of the
people who organise and facilitate the field schools. To be a successful FFS trainer/facilitator, one must
have skills in managing participatory, discovery-based learning as well as technical knowledge to guide
the groups’ learning and action process (also see Appendix I). Without an adequate Training of Trainers
(ToT) programme, the subsequent FFS programme will fall far of its potential (169).
Figure 2. Different waves in adapting the FFS from a focus on a single constraint (pest management)
of a single crop (rice) to an emphasis on the multiple dimensions of crop management to cropping
systems to resource management to social-cultural dimensions of community life (57).
As a result of the success of the IPM-FFSs in Asia, there was a strong movement to copy and adapt the
approach to other situations (see Figure 1). The concept has now developed far beyond IPM in rice. FFSs
are now active in Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Near East and North
Africa, and Central and Eastern Europe in at least a total of 78 countries (Appendix II, Table II.1). Further
spread has taken place with the focus of the FFS moving from primarily rice IPM in Asia to vegetable
and cotton IPM (205; 206) in Asia to potato IPM in Latin America, cotton, rice, tree crops (cocoa) and
vegetable IPPM in Africa, vegetable and fruit IPPM in the Middle East, the control of Western Corn
Rootworm - a quarantine pest (147) - in maize in Eastern and Central Europe and now towards mixed
systems in East Africa with crops, poultry and dairy cows (164; 165; 5; 57). Agricultural topics in the
context of FFSs that do not follow a specific crop developed more recently include soil fertility
management (191; 250), land and water management (251; 132; 92), conservation agriculture, land
degradation, agroforestry (198), food security, nutrition, fishing (24) and biodiversity (218; 179). More
and more topics are outside the agricultural field, which include integrated vector management (32),
community forestry (183; 184), FFSs networks for marketing (150), health and HIV/AIDS through
Farmer Life Schools (286; 265; 47) and Junior Farmer Field and Life School (89; 69), FFSs for illiterates and
advocacy (233).
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
Waves of adaptations in FFSs have occurred from a focus on a single constraint (pest management) of a
single crop (rice) to an emphasis on the multiple dimensions of crop management to cropping systems to
resource management to socio-cultural dimensions of community life (figure 2). This may be seen as the
natural progression of the FFS; the phasing or timing by which particular FFSs would evolve to multi-
dimensional and/or higher-level concern is for the groups itself to determine (57).
The report of the international FFS Learning Workshop (57) presents a good overview of FFS adaptations
and institutionalisation.
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
3. Current Global Status of Farmer Field Schools
This section covers the global status of FFSs since its introduction in 1989 in Indonesia, with specific attention for
livestock. Details for each country are presented in Appendix II. Table II.1 provides an overview of the
characteristics about the implementation of FFSs in each country for the period 1989-2005.
To obtain an overview of the global status of FFSs the authors used available FFS documentation,
searched the Internet and contacted key FFS practitioners globally. For each country the key
ics of FFS implementation collected were: lead institutions, main donors, start year, major
FFS topics, number of facilitators and/or trainers trained, number of farmers trained in FFS, number of
FFSs implemented and main country contact person. Feedback varied largely
, as a result of which the
data presented in Table II.1 can only be used as indicative estimates. To obtain a full quantitative
overview for each country a survey/questionnaire would need to be carried out in each country, as was
done for Kenya (91)
followed by Zimbabwe (91a).
Table 2. Cumulative number of countries that use the Farmer Field School approach
No. Cumulative Countries
1 1 Indonesia
0 1
0 1
1 2 Vietnam
3 5 China; Philippines; Sudan
2 7 Bangladesh; India
1 8 Sri Lanka
4 12 Cambodia; Egypt; Ghana; Kenya
6 18 Laos PDR; Mali; Pakistan; Peru; Tanzania; Zimbabwe
2 20 Nepal; Thailand
6 26 Brazil; Bolivia; Ecuador; Ethiopia; Uganda; Zambia
5 31 Colombia; El Salvador; Honduras; Nicaragua; Senegal
7 38
Benin; Burkina Faso; Malawi; Mexico; Mozambique; Niger;
7 45
Dominica; Dominican Republic; DR Congo; Haiti; Jamaica;
Suriname; Trinidad and Tobago
15 60
Bosnia-Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Cameroon; Croatia; Guyana;
Hungary; Iran; Kyrgyzstan; Rom
ania; Serbia and Montenegro;
Sierra Leone; Slovak Republic; Syria; Turkey
12 72
Algeria, Armenia; Bhutan; Gambia; Guatemala; Jordan; Lebanon;
Morocco; Namibia; Palestine Territory; Togo; Tunisia; Uzbekistan
3 75 Angola; Rwanda; USA
FFSs are now active in Asia (including East, South-East, South, Central and Middle East), Africa
(Western, Southern, Eastern and Central), Latin America (South and Central America), the Caribbean
and Eastern Europe (Table 2). It should not be surprising that FFS-type activities are conducted in
Australia through RiceCheck programmes and in the USA on fruit trees (OrchardCheck); the basic idea
of aligning training with the crop phenology
or livestock management and undertaking hands-on
practical training has always been a “normal” practice in western country organizations such as Future
Farmers of America (FFA) and 4-H (169). The geographic spread has been accompanied by local cultural
and socio-economic adaptations by local facilitators. In the case of moving from Asia to Africa, the focus
Some feedback was very detailed, whilst in others there was clearly data missing. For certain countries no
feedback was received at all.
This country information will become available on-line through
The term crop phenology refers to the growth stages of the crop.
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
moved from IPM to Integrated Production and Pest Management (IPPM) due to an emphasis on
production and already low levels of pesticide use in most crops since structural adjustments took place.
As noted in section 2, FFSs originated in Indonesia, and have subsequently spread to many institutions
in Asia, including the governmental extension programmes of various countries and national and
international NGOs across the continent. Application of the FFS approach beyond IPM has perhaps
diversified most in Asia, with it being applied to community forest management in Nepal (183,
gender issues in Indonesia (92a), HIV/AIDS in Ca
mbodia (293), women’s self-help groups in India (276),
and a variety of other areas.
Evolution of FFSs in Asian FAO Programmes and Community IPM
The FAO South and South-East Asian Rice IPM Project coordinated by Peter Kenmore from 1982 to 1997
worked to bring IPM to rice farmers during a period
when massive pesticide subsidies encouraged over-
spraying and the occurrence of the release of a secondary pest, the rice brown planthopper, which
caused widespread production losses across Asia. This project focused on removing subsidies for the un-
needed rice pesticides as well as promoting farmer education on a large scale. Field training was widely
tested and successful in Sri Lanka and the Philippines for farmers and policy makers to understand the
role of natural enemies and the disruption caused by pesticides. This training was linked to policy
change and – combined with data from national researchers and farmer IPM studies – had a large
impact. The Presidential Instruction by President Suharto in 1986 was perhaps the best known of these
changes; it entailed banning 57 pesticides and subsequently removing annual subsidies of US$150
million for rice pesticides. However, policy changes in India, Bangladesh, t
he Philippines and other
Asian countries also helped to reduce the threat of secondary pest outbreaks.
Large-scale FFS programmes emerged first in the case of the Indonesia National IPM Programme on
ice, which was later expanded to vegetables and estate crops under various national programmes. FFSs
were originally designed to fit into the predominant training and visitation system with a few
improvements including a hands-on practical field-based curriculum, extension staff as facilitators
(rather than being expected to be experts in all fields), and farmer-managed learning plots instead of
demonstrations. The learning activities were built on solid adult education principles and led to
successful large-scale implementation of rice IPM. The FFS process has subsequently been adapted to
numerous crops and study areas in Indonesia.
The Indonesian success was followed by expansion and innovati
ons in Vietnam, the Philippines,
Thailand, Bangladesh, India and China. Eventually, the FFS was no longer only for learning about IPM.
Driven by farmer and donor demand for greater sustainability and wider impact, FFSs evolved under
the leadership of Russ Dilts and the FAO Inter-Country IPM Programme towards “community IPM”
under which the wider livelihood issues of IPM were explicitly developed around FFSs for education but
also farmers’ fora and community associations for focusing on social capital development and dealing
with environmental, health and local policy issues related to pesticides and IPM (
224). Although many of
the “n
ational” projects have not continued after the end of this project, national and local farmers’
associations are still active, being testament of the sustainable nature of community IPM. Institutionally,
NGOs have taken the place of the FAO programmes in many of the countries (e.g. FIELD Indonesia, Srer
Khmer in Cambodia).
NGOs in Asia
Numerous international and national NGOs in Asia have
been conducting FFSs since the 1990s. World
Education coordinated and funded a network of Indonesian NGOs to conduct FFS projects beginning in
the early 1990s. This network included such NGOs as Gema Desa in Lampung, and Gita Pertiwi and the
Institute for Rural Technology Development (LPTP) in Central Java. With small budgets, these NGOs
have been able to conduct FFS projects that have produced substantial impacts among local farmers.
This section is partly adapted from Luther et al. (2005) and summarises Appendix II; details for each country are
presented in Appendix II.
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
Table 3. Summary data of FFS implementation in Asia
(1989-2005); for details see AppendixII, Table II.1
Country Start
Bangladesh 1994 ~20,000 ~650,000 ~31,000
Bhutan 2004 15 176 11
Cambodia 1996 ~2,950 ~92,000 >1,550
China 1993 ~2,500 ~130,000 ~4,000
Indonesia 1989 >30,000 >1,100,000 >48,000
India 1994 >31,000 >255,000 >8,700
Laos PDR 1997 201 ncda ~768
Nepal 1998 619 57,050 2,282
Pakistan 1997 >480 >13,000 >525
Philippines 1993 >4,000 >520,000 >14,000
Sri Lanka 1995 102 45,107 2,453
Thailand 1998 352 74,585 2,985
Vietnam 1992 7,210 930,000 33,400
LPTP built its programme by hiring farmers who were FFS alumni to become full-time FFS facilitators.
Besides training them in participatory methods and technical aspects of IPM, the NGO also facilitated
their learning of other new skills, such as how to use computers. LPTP has done an admirable job of
responding to village needs; in one village where almost all the younger and middle-aged men migrate
to the city to work about 10 months of the year and the women therefore do a large share of the farming,
LPTP facilitated an all-womens’ soybean FFS. Participants ranged from teenagers to those in their 60s ,
and the older women showed
as much enthusiasm for
learning as the younger ones.
Another valuable practice of
LPTPs is to transport FFS
alumni to other villages and
facilitate discussions among
farmers so useful technologies
can spread more quickly.
CARE–Bangladesh has
conducted large FFS projects,
which have trained hundreds
of thousands of Bangladeshi
farmers. CARE integrated fish
culture and rice IPM in the
FFS curriculum for its
has also been a large IPM-FFS
project, which focuses on rice and vegetable crops.
Recent adaptations and developments
Following the rice and vegetable programmes in Asia, between 1999-2004 FAO implemented a cotton
IPM programme in six countries in Asia (206). In India a number of state governments, realizing the
effectiveness of FFSs and economic and social benefits to resource-poor farmers, have taken steps to
institutionalise the IPM-FFS model for cotton and other crops in their mainstream extension.
A recent development in SE Asia has been the adaptation of the FFS approach for recovering biodiversity
knowledge (218;
Diversification of the FFS approach at the institutional level has occurred with the livestock and seed FFS
programmes with DANIDA support in Vietnam (17; 61).
Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)
After a brief introduction in Sudan in 1993 and Kenya in 1995, a larger-scale launch of the approach in
Africa actually started in Zimbabwe in 1997. FFSs are presently being conducted by a wide range of
institutions in Africa, including FAO, DANIDA, many national governments, and numerous non-
governmental organizations (NGOs). Unique challenges have arisen while attempting to apply in Africa
this approach first developed in Asia. At its introduction in Africa the focus of FFSs was on production
and pest management (IPPM) because of the relatively low levels of production and pesticide usage.
Cotton, vegetables and tobacco are the largest recipients of pesticide treatments. For example, in cotton
IPPM, most farmers conclude that they are over-using pesticides and under-using quality seed, irrigation
and fertilisers. In rice IPPM as well, farmers learn to improve yields without increasing use of (or
beginning to use) costly pesticides.
In Africa the problem of pesticide use was less apparent and as a result several innovations have taken
place since FFSs were introduced from Asia. First is the inclusion of more health and nutrition “special
topics” due to the low level of awareness by farmers about the dynamics of diseases such as HIV/AIDS
This section is partly adapted from Luther et al. (2005) and summarises Appendix II; details for each country are
presented in Appendix II.
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
and malaria that are crippling many rural communities. Basic nutrition, water boiling, intestinal
parasites and women’s reproductive health are included in FFSs by non-IPPM extension officers or NGO
guest facilitators. Perhaps the most exciting innovation, developed by womens’ groups in Western
Kenya, are “com
mercial plots” which are group production plots adjacent to the FFS learning plots. Such
commercial plots allow the groups to raise funds and become self-financing in their activities. Efforts are
underway to institutionalise these commercial plots in the FFSs so that they will be largely self-financed
from the outset of programs. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is funding a
four-country effort to develop the methodology by working with these innovative FFS groups.
Table 4. Summary data of FFS implementation in
SSA (1993-2005); for details see Appendix II, Table
Country Start
Angola 2005 - - -
Benin 2001 125 ~1500 80
Burkina Faso 2001 > 217 > 6,253 360
Cameroon 2003 58 nda 64
DR Congo 2002 848 11,281 357
Ethiopia 1999 > 500 > 2210 ~571
Gambia 2004 nda nda nda
Ghana 1996 nda nda nda
Ivory Coast nda 41 nda 126
Kenya 1996 ~1,660 nda ~2300
Madagascar nda nda nda nda
Malawi 2001 32 nda >77
Mali 1997 >179 >7,693 >430
Mozambique 2001 >158 ~1,605 243
Namibia 2004 40 240 8
Niger 2001 ~50 ~500 25
Nigeria 2001 >90 >1,000 >57
Rwanda 2005 - - -
Senegal 2000 >277 >6,468 >370
Sierra Leone 2003 260 18,400 736
South Africa nda nda Nda nda
Sudan 1993 1,626 4,197 >812
Tanzania 1997 >456 >10,000 >560
Togo 2004 30 307 12
Uganda 1999 >290 nda >500
Zambia 1999 ~382 ~1,900 ~140
Zimbabwe 1997 166 >3,500 >480
As a result of the interest shown by farmers in health and nutrition, FAO, Wageningen University and
Research Centre (WUR) and ot
her institutions are in the process of adapting the approach to work with
vector-borne diseases (32) such as
malaria and bilharzia, particularly
in West Africa. The gender and
development service of FAO has
put a large effort in adapting the
approach in the area of health,
particularly on HIV/AIDS and,
also working with young
orphans. These so-called Farmer
Life Schools (FLS) and Junior
Farmer Field and Life Schools
(JFFLS) have built on the
experience in Cambodia (293);
pilots are taking place in Kenya,
Mozambique, Namibia, South
Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe
(89; 69).
ILRI started adapting the FFS
roach in Kenya in 2001 for
similarly complex situations like
animal health and production
(185). As a result of the demand
for livestock activities, ILRI now
provides training and capacity
building support in various other
countries, such as Tanzania,
Uganda, Pakistan, Costa Rica and
The water and soil services of
FAO, in collaboration with
ICRISAT and national extension,
have been especially active in
Eastern and Southern Africa
developing FFSs for soil husbandry, minimum tillage conservation agriculture, soil conservation, water
harvesting and water moisture management in rain-fed systems (132; 92), and a project in Kenya will
also start to tackle land degradation. These new field schools combine both educational and participatory
technology development (PTD) methods.
In West Africa FFS developments have largely remained in deepening IPPM and diversification to other
crops (cowp
ea by IITA; cocoa by IITA). After the introduction in West Africa in Ghana in 1996 a steady
increase in the number of West African countries has occurred since, mainly thanks to a number of
regional programmes.
Also in Africa, FFSs are becoming the foundation of field-based food security programmes and taking on
a new role. Under IPM, farmers learn to better manage their crop for efficient use of resources (time,
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
inputs, etc.). After the FFS, which is typically one to two seasons, farmers graduate with new skills. In
fact, many groups of farmers in FFSs decide to continue their group as some type of informal or formal
association as they have built trust and confidence together. This is a natural occurrence not unlike the
emergence of alumni associations or the continuity of Lions or Rotary Clubs. A new trend that is
emerging is marketing networks in FFSs that cooperate as a larger unit (150). FFS networks in Western
Kenya consist of about 3,000 farmers per district and have won supermarket contracts for IPM tomatoes.
The skills required for shipping the right quality and quantity at the right time are new to these farmer-
owned networks and therefore the FFS curriculum is moving towards management topics as well.
A critical role of FFSs is the ability to up-scale by spreading out. A programme for 250,000 farmers over 5
years is planned in Sierra Leone, another for over a million farmers in Kenya and larger programmes in
Tanzania. Up-scaling is possible because farmers can lead the largely hands-on activities of a well-
designed FFS. In these programmes, the FFS complements other methodologies including farmer-to-
farmer methods that have been found to be best for straightforward see-and-do methods such as water
harvesting and storage as well as PTD methods for production systems where new solutions emerge
from collaboration between farmers and researcher experts – the successful Agricultural Technology and
Information Response Initiative (ATIRI) activities by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI)
are a model system. Radio and other mass media play a role for motivation and information exchange
especially where farmer interviews are used.
South America and the Caribbean
“Modernization” policies and structural adjustments throughout Latin America have dismembered
classical agricultural extension and research services. This is transforming the roles of researchers and
s and placing greater responsibility on rural communities. While tremendously challenging
for today’s professionals and their institutions, improving present-day agricultural research and
development has demanded approaches that are more responsive and better suited to local agro-
ecological and socio-economic conditions. The efforts to introduce FFSs have led involved institutions to
re-think how to organise themselves for greater and more effective agricultural innovation.
Responding to public sector collapse through collaboration
The Internat
ional Potato Center (CIP), FAO, and a diverse group of governmental and non-
governmental organizations have been working with Andean communities in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia
to respond to pressing potato-farming demands. Partners are striving to enhance farmer understanding
of agro-ecosystems and to strengthen local decision-making and technology development capacities for a
more productive and sustainable agriculture. Faced with tremendous pest problems and pesticide abuse,
they have emphasised management-intensive approaches that require strong understanding of biology
and ecology.
Beginning in the early 1990s, national and regional research institutes b
egan to work more closely with
communities to strengthen potato IPM. Presently, they are building on this experience through a range
of participatory extension and research models, in particular the FFS methodology, Local Agricultural
Research Committees (CIALs) developed by CIAT, and Farmer-to-Farmer extension developed by
World Neighbours and others in Central America.
Researchers engage with communities in collaboration with NGOs a
nd municipal governments. Such
collaborative arrangements can yield diverse benefits. For example, communities gain new access to
information and inst
itutional resources, rural development agencies gain increased technical support,
and research organizations gain brokers to mediate between their relatively narrow interests and the
broader needs of communities.
Strengthening research and community-based agricultural development through FFS
This section is largely based on the section on Latin America in Luther et al. (2005) and summarises Appendix II;
details for each country are presented in Appendix II.
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
In 1997, CIP and its institutional partners in Bolivia and Peru started to experiment with more
participatory approaches to training (275a; 275b), incorporating some elements of the FFS approach, but
not the Agro-ecosystem Analysis (AESA)
, which many consider to be its distinguishing feature. CIP
has promoted the FFS approach through a project financed by IFAD in six different countries, including
Bolivia and Peru. In each country a national research institute and an NGO, or other extension
organization, has been included. In 1999, to support this project, the Global IPM Facility organised a
course of three months to train FFS facilitators in Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. These facilitators then
returned to their work places and implemented the FFS, incorporating other important elements of the
Asian model, such as the AESA. Although many of the fundamental principles have been the same, each
country has had its own strategy of implementation, depending on the demands of the farmers and the
unique institutional and organizational setting of each context.
Table 5. Summary data of FFS implementation in
Latin America and the Caribbean (1997-2005)
; for
details see Appendix II, Table II.1
Country Start
Bolivia 1999 175 ~5,000 ~100
Brazil 1999 160 ~1,614 89
Colombia 2000 20 nda >25
Dominica 2002 12 67 6
2002 8 10 1
Ecuador 1999 nda nda nda
El Salvador 2000 127 2,387 127
Guatemala 2004 53 136 29
Guyana 2003 >12 nda 6
Haiti 2002 24 55 2
Honduras 2000 nda nda nda
Jamaica 2002 12 25 1
Mexico 2001 >70 >2,500 >250
Nicaragua 2000 136 2,390 108
Peru 1997 nda nda nda
Suriname 2002 >13 >5 >1
Trinidad and
2002 16 19 2
In Bolivia, the PROINPA Foundation
and the NGO ASAR have taken the
ead in the design of the training
curriculum. Both institutions, in
close coordination, have promoted
FFSs in different communities. In
Peru, the NGO CARE has been
responsible for the first
implementation of the FFS. In
Ecuador, CIP and INIAP, the
national agricultural research
institute, have promoted the FFS
approach in the most important
potato producing provinces through
a network of local institutions. More
recently, FAO established a national
FFS programme in Peru that has
effectively scaled-up IPM
throughout the country. FFSs have
also spread to Colombia, with the
leadership of CORPOICA and
FEDEPAPA, and to Central America
(El Salv
ador, Guatemala, Honduras
and Nicaragua) and Mexico, with
the leadership of
Zamorano/PROMIPAC and World Neighbours, and the Rockefeller Foundation, respectively. FAO has
introduced the approach in Brazil and CABI has introduced FFSs to six Caribbean countries (Dominica,
Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago); this probably resulted in more
interest in the approach in Suriname, which now has a joint FFS project with Guyana on rice and
aquaculture. Eight years after its introduction, the FFS approach has become well established throughout
Latin America (Table 5).
Similar to the African experience, the practice of FFSs in Latin America brought a number of innovations
the methodology as a result of lessons learned in Asia and the unique farming systems and ecologies,
institutions, and politics of the region. Introducing FFSs to Latin America required more than just a re-
writing of extension manuals. Partner organizations were generally hesitant to blindly accept external
ideas, but t
hey were willing to explore common principles among successful IPM work and to adapt
local methods. For example, after agreeing on the benefits of “discovery learning”, local extensionists
took to heart the re-design of their activities to create a new extension guide (see 229a). The result was
both a rectification of and improvement on existing experience in the region.
AESA is the process during which participants of the FFS observe and analyze the field situation, based on which
they make the proper management decisions.
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
Presently, the chief challenge is political and institutional in nature. Impact studies conducted by CIP,
INIAP, and the FAO have shown important contributions to farmer knowledge and a relationship
between knowledge and increased productivity (33). Other studies in market and input intensive areas
have shown that FFSs has enabled farmers to significantly decrease dependence on pesticides without
ively harming production per area and in many cases improving overall productivity (22b). Despite
such impressive results, without public investment in agricult
ure, it has been difficult for FFSs to reach
more than a small group of farmers.
Consequently, the present challenge for the diverse FFS movements in Lati
n America is to establish
collaborative structures and finance and technical support mechanisms to sustain an FFS movement. The
diversity of experience has brought a number of opportunities for the future. For example, in
America PROMIPAC has tested an IPM labelling system to certify the clean production emerging from
FFSs and to link groups to higher value urban markets. Similarly, groups in Ecuador have established
production contracts with the agrifood industry, such as FritoLay and Kentucky Fried Chicken, which
provide fairer prices and help farmers to avoid the variability of national markets. More work is needed
to further develop such market opportunities for FFSs and to coordinate production among groups in
order to meet volume demands throughout the year.
Table 6. Summary data of FFS implementation in the
Near East and North Africa (1996-2005); for details see
Appendix II, Table II.1
Country Start
Algeria 2004 25 74 4
Egypt 1996 >950 >2,210 ~571
Iran 2003 >49 nda >42
Jordan 2004 8 nda 7
Kyrgyzstan 2003 nda nda 19
Lebanon 2004 6 nda 6
Morocco 2001 >130 nda ~270
2004 6 nda 11
Syria 2003 >6 nda >18
Tunisia 2004 23 44 3
Turkey 2003 nda nda nda
Uzbekistan 2004 12 240 12
Rather than rely on NGOs and professional extensionists that are highly reliant on external funding
sources, programmes are
beginning to work more
directly through community-
based organizations and are
training and supporting local
farmers as FFS facilitators.
This has led to the exploration
of self-financing mechanisms,
where the production of the
FFS covers the costs of
facilitation. Presently in
Ecuador, this modality is
beginning to dominate the
FFS movement, with the FAO
and local governments
contributing financial
resources to support a small
team of technicians and
researchers that provides
informational and continued
training support to farmer
Near East and North Africa
In the Near East and North Africa FFSs were first introduced in Egypt in 1996. Although these projects
used FFS concepts as originally developed in Asia, several modifications were made. For example,
efforts to implement FFSs in Egypt have found that group dynamics activities developed in Asia do not
work in the Arabic-Egyptian culture (223). Reorienting FFS facilitators from a top-down technology
transfer approach to a participatory approach has been especially challenging in Egypt, and has required
intensive training in the latter over a prolonged period. Overall, adapting the FFS process to local
circumstances must be a collaborative activity among farmers, facilitators and project staff (223). Other
countries in the region did not follow the Egyptians in introducing the approach until 2003-2005.
However, the approach is now established on a small scale in Algeria, Iran, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan,
Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Teriitory,
Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and Uzbekistan, involving five major
projects, four of which are on IPM and one on management of salt-affected and gypsiferous irrigated
lands (Uzbekistan).
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
Central and Eastern Europe
Table 7. Summary data of FFS implementation in
Central and Eastern Europe (2003-2005); for details
see Appendix II, Table II.1
Country Start
Armenia 2004 13 110 14
2003 23 260 24
Bulgaria 2003 9 110 10
In Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) the FFS approach was first introduced in seven countries in 2003
through an FAO project with the aim of exploring and supporting farmers’ roles in managing an
introduced pest on maize, the Western Corn Rootworm, by means of IPM, and the longer term
contribution of FFSs in
strengthening farmers’ farm
enterpise management and agro-
ecosystem innovation in CEE
contexts (147). An innovative
feature of this experience has been
the development of risk mapping
as a tool for farm- and
community-based risk
Two other projects have also
introduced the approach in
Armenia; one on rodent control
through FAO funding and the
other with support from USDA
has triggered the emergence of an
NGO that now coordinates a
number of FFS projects in the
Croatia 2003 11 170 14
Hungary 2003 15 210 21
Romania 2003 13 130 13
Serbia and
2003 25 385 37
2003 5 40 6
Farmer Livestock School experiences
As mentioned in the section on Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, the major experiences in Farmer Livestock
Schools comes from an ILRI project in Kenya (185) and from the DANIDA-supported Agricultural Sector
Programme Support in Vietnam (17; 61). Whereas the ILR
I project focused on adapting the FFS approach
for animal health and production, focusing on smallholder dairy cattle, the programme in Vietnam
focused on developing curricula for pig, duck and chicken farming. Both experiences are explained in
detail in Box II.1 and Box II.2. Two other DANIDA-supported programmes in Benin and Senegal have
been using similar approaches to FFS, including PTDs, simple AESAs and group work, in the
implementation of smallholder poultry activities during 2001-2004 (pers. Comm. Jens Christain Riise;
234). Less pronounced and less documented experiences with livestock experiences in FFSs exist in
Ecuador, Egypt, Guatemala, in Pakistan by CABI, in Peru and in Zimbabwe on dry season feeding of
livestock and poultry FFSs (pers. comm. Dave Masendeke). As a result of the experiences in Kenya by
ILRI, Farmer Livestock Schools (FlivS) are now in great demand, especially in Africa but also elsewhere.
ILRI receives many requests for support and the number of FLS is expanding quickly. IFAD and the
Government of Tanzania for example are considering a major FLS component for the Pastoral and Agro-
pastoral Livestock Development Programme (
PAPLIDEV) (pers. comm. Ide de Willebois).
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
4. The Broader Picture
This section discusses how FFSs fit into the broader education and extension picture; how FFS
can be used as a tool for empowerment, education, innovation and extension, including
comparative advantages and disadvantages for these areas of use in comparison with other
Broadly speaking, the FFS approach can be viewed as a capacity-building investment in the sector
“education, information, and training”. Where the FFS fits in the spectrum of services and development
support in th
is sector can be examined through two “windows”. One focuses on the FFS in relation to
approaches based on extension and training, the other on FFS in relation to farmer-centred, learning-
based approaches. Both will be addressed here.
Both the “grey” and published literature must be handled with great care in making assessments of any
icular approach. As van den Berg (2004) has stressed with respect to the FFS, there is no agreed
framework of assessment in relation to the various approaches, nor in terms of the FFS’ own
performance (as an event, or a process, or an approach), no agreement on the scope of what is to be
legitimately taken into account (particularly in how far (i) development impacts such as empowerment
or self-organised community development, and (ii) externalities such as health and environmental
impacts, should be taken into account), and no agreed assessment methodology. These cautions apply
across the entire field.
Approaches based on extension and training
Approaches to innovation based on extension and training focus on what is supplied, and how it is
supplied. The “problem of innovation” is then cast in terms of getting others to adopt what is on offer.
Three theoretical domains provide “mental models” that have been highly influential in shaping
practical actions and the design of services under this heading. These are: diffusion; adoption behaviour;
and decision-making. They have been the focus of many thousands of empirical and theoretical studies
worldwide over the last
century, inspired by Everett Rogers and his colleagues at Michigan State
University, and few new contributions to understanding are now expected in this area. A brief summary
of the three domains follows.
Diffusion: an autonomous social process that “works while you sleep” (243). It
is not, however, a random
process, being inextricably associated with social and other characteristics. The conditions, social
characteristics, limiting factors, and interventions that allow, inhibit or support diffusion processes have
been clearly established, as well as the kinds of technology and information that diffuses, and the
influence of the “marketing” and “packaging” of the technology and information on diffusion potential.
Careful design can manipulate these factors to a large but not unlimited extent. Uncritical optimism
about the power of diffusion processes underpins linear models of RD&E. Formal research is positioned
as the source of new technologies and messages delivered along an organisational chain through
extension services to target farmers. Diffusion processes are assumed to reduce unit costs and deliver
wide impact (235). “Lumpy” technologies, which require complex changes in practices, the organisation
of work, and behaviour or complex messages that require associated changes across a range of
institutional relations, norms, values and behaviours do not diffuse widely (246; 247a).
Adoption behaviour: The behavioural, locational, psycho-social, and demographic profiles of adopters also
have been exhaustively studied (19). Researchers of diffusion processes found that adopters of a given
technology or message could be categorised in relation to time as early adopters (“progressives”),
adopters, or late adopters (“laggards”). These post-facto categories, elicited in response to particular
technologies or information, in specific contexts, came to be used prescriptively to identify “target”
populations and their presumed readiness to adopt. Yet research meanwhile was demonstrating that
slight shifts in individual circumstance, structural context, the nature or design of the technology or the
way it was packaged, also shifted an individual’s readiness to adopt. None-the-less, many extension
practitioners continue to use this mental model to guide their practice, choice of target contacts, and the
design of services (243).
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
Decision-making and decision support: Three basic decision rules have been established with respect to the
adoption of what is supplied: an individual must want to, know how to, and be able to adopt any given
technology or message. How to manipulate these three factors has been thoroughly researched,
including the role of advertising (all media), special campaigns, and other “pre-disposing” approaches,
as well as the role of demonstrations and open days. Group processes have been shown to strengthen the
decision-making capacity of individuals and communities (but can lead to premature closure; “group
think”; the undue influence of the most powerful; and can encounter problems of representation. Poorer
and more remote individuals typically cannot sustain the higher transaction costs involved in group-
membership). Effort to establish “knowledge, attitudes and practices” as predictors of adoption decisions
has been less fruitful. This has to do with the conceptualisation of knowledge (see further section 7), and
the positioning of the adopter as a passive recipient of the information and knowledge embodied in a
technology or message, that is implied in linear “transfer of technology” models of innovation processes.
Decision-support tools, on the other hand, have been shown to play a useful, cost-effective role,
especially if they are non-prescriptive, simple, low cost, incorporate tangible actions that provide
feedback on effects, allow incorporation of data from producers’ own enterprises, and allow exploration
of scenarios “at the extremes”, i.e. if they allow the user to learn (180). Effort to build elaborate decision-
support tools on the back of scientific modelling have not proven cost-effective, not least because the
decision support tool tends to incorporate the assumptions of scientists’ own mental models of how the
world works and because, once the user has extracted the learning value, the tool quickly become
redundant (163).
In the frame sketched above, the following models a
re among the most common. The Training and Visit
system of extension can be seen as a modification that rationalises management of the linear, transfer
model, strengthens diffusion potential through group interaction and, by eliciting feedback flows of
information from end users to researchers, allows adaptation of what is supplied. Supervised credit
schemes, of
ten tied to fixed input packages and/or marketing outlets, attempt a more comprehensive
provision of services. Typically they target those who are assumed to be “progressive early adopters”, in
the expectation that the supplied practices and technology will diffuse to others – and cost recovery from
the financially viable will sustain the credit line. Yet “progressives” typically are the better-off (thus less
deserving of subsidised credit), educated and well-connected (who thus can avoid repayment), while the
packages are typically not well-adapted to poorer farmers’ needs or circumstances. Core estates-with
outgrowers close the loop between production and sale in a system of managed inter-dependence. They
can shift small holders from subsistence to cash cropping of the target commodity but profit
considerations on the part of the organising interest typically hold farmers’ incomes and opportunities
below what is required for sustained development. More recent supermarket-led contracting arrangements
offer similar potential but also similar limitations. Farmer-owned and managed co-operatives can create
relations that strengthen farmers’ position vis a vis other actors in the value-added chain but co-ops are a
complex organisational form that demand high management capacities. Farmer Training Centres, whether
Box 2. Differences in technology diffusion, adotion and decision-making
Theories of diffusion, adoption behaviour, and decision-makin
offer a certain and successful
basis for certain kinds of a
ricultural modernisation. The accompan
models of innovation are
efficient and effective if, and onl
if, the man
and critical limitations and conditionalities are
understood and observed in practice. They contribute only marginally to the creation of stron
independent and organised farmers and neglect almost wholly the organisation of the multi-sided
institutional development be
ond the farm
ate that is necessar
to create a vibrant, competitive
farming sector.
It has been shown that “lumpy” technolo
ies or complex messa
es that require associated
es across a ran
e of institutional relations, norms, values and behaviours do not diffuse
widely (246; 247a).
If simple messages, and simple technologies, are required to deal with straightforward problems
in largely homogenous landscapes, and among largely homogenous populations, cost-effective
options are available to guide extension and communication practice.
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
privately operated or state-run, by concentrating on courses that train participants in what is supplied,
largely in a classroom setting, can impart skills, share technologies, and certify practitioners and service
providers but they contribute only marginally to transformational change, while carrying high overhead
costs and inflexible staffing.
Learning-based approaches
Learning-based approaches seek to address four elements of sustainable development (138) neglected or
only weakly addressed by the above:
the creation of strong, independent and organised farmers
the organi
sation of the multi-faceted institutional development beyond the farm gate that is
necessary to create a vibrant, competitive farming sector and sustain community-based livelihoods
the strengthening or development of individual and collective capacity to benefit from multi-sourced
ential for innovation, drawing on formal, informal and indigenous knowledge and experience
take into consideration (livestock and human) health and environmental concerns and internalise
these a
s “goods” within the farm enterprise, rather than externalising the “bad” effects of much of
what has been supplied as “modern” technology.
The accompanying theories of learning, based on a range of foundational sciences, experiment, and in-
depth empirical study, position the fa
rmer as a cognitive agent (see further section 7).
The accompanying theories of knowledge and knowledge creation describe knowledge as someth
ing that is
generated “between the ears” in each person’s experience in confrontation with a specific environment: it
follows that knowledge cannot be transferred. However, communication about others’ knowledge can be
shared (163; 162)
Systems-thinking and systems models of innovation (217) bu
ild on this foundational understanding in
relation to the agent as an actor in a world that is perceived as systemic, communicating with others
about perceptions of the world, which can be empirically explored and “made to speak”, and thus
rendered a participant in the discourse. They provide examples of applications in pasture management.
Farming Systems Research and Extension is centrally located in this body of understanding (124; 59; 97). In
practice, however, many FSR&E activities have fallen back into the linear ways of thinking and behaving
that underpin “non-learning” approaches, in what often seems to have become an obsessive focus on
system diagnosis.
Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA) and Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) RRA was developed as a toolbox of
methods (originating in a range of professional practi
ces), that allow cost-effective scoping and diagnosis
of complex problem situations, typically involving mixed discipline teams, and consultation with a range
of stakeholders (49). PRA developed these methods to allow and support stakeholders to become co-
researchers in these processes of joint fact-finding. Both RRA and PRA encompass tools and techniques
that generate qualitative and quantitative results; both can, if suitably located within a rigorously
designed sampling frame, be iterated across large populations to deliver generalisable data, although
they are more typically used for generating rich, deeply layered information about sub-populations.
RRA and PRA customarily are used to initiate and enrich the early phases of innovation approaches, but
can be drawn upon at any point, as needed.
Participatory Learning and Action Research (PLAR): PLAR t
akes Participatory Technology Development
(PTD) in a looser, but possibly also a more empowering direction, by stressing the opportunity for
“double loop learning” in which participants are encouraged to observe and reflect on their own
learning p
rocesses during “reflective activity” (66). PLAR builds on earlier traditions of group-based
RD&E and field-based “schools”. Jiggins et al. (1992) presents an example of field-based learning
combined with group development and empowerment among women farmers in relation to ox-
ploughing in Western Zambia. Pioneering work in the 1980s among pastoralists and nomadic herders in
dryland Africa and western Mongolia, to build on indigenous veterinary and husbandry practices and
social organisation, bears many of the hallmarks of PLAR, although not labelled as such at the time (27).
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
Farmer Participatory Research: FPR focuses on the structuring of the farmer-researcher relationship in the
PTD approach. Specific forms that can be included here are: Participatory Plant Breeding, Participatory
Varietal Selection, Farmer Research Groups (including the CIALs that have spread through South and
Central America), and various mixes of these arrangements (105; 142; see also 160 for examples from
industrial agricultures). The functioning and characteristics of effective FPR partnerships have also been
studied (283).
Box 3. Conditions for innovation processes in the rice-duck system of Bangladesh (182)
The introduction of rice-duck enterprises in over forty villages in Bangladesh has required the
development of co-operation between the livestock department (the only source of duck vaccines),
the national rice research institute, NGOs and poor women farmers. The negotiation of new
organizational roles and responsibilities has been essential for creating the conditions for innovation,
by reducing the transaction costs and labour costs sufficiently to make the new enterprises
economic. Women need access to ducklings, credit, vaccines, information, and training, at the right
place, right time, and in the right mix, to be able to participate effectively. The innovation process
then began with a promotional video, (which allowed the village communities to compare their own
situation with the successful rice-duck systems shown in the video), and with participatory
experiments and economic analyses. In the next season village vaccinators, who could earn an
income by providing fee for service, were trained and village hatcheries developed. The rice-duck
systems turned out to be simple to manage but required complex negotiations within the community
over access to grazing land, herding responsibilities, and the production of snails and duckweed for
feed. Rice producers had to agree to reduce the amount of chemicals used in the rice fields. The
emergence of mongooses as predators in turn was a surprise that the women had to develop
creative ways to deal with.
It should be stressed that none of the learning-based approaches preclude resort to reductionist
experimental work, or other modes of innovation. The privatisation of services (287) does not change the
underlying theory or lessons from practice. Highly professional private advisory agents typically move
comfortably, and knowledgeably among the various approaches.
Intermediate forms of innovation systems
Chain-linked models of innovation: Kline and Rosenberg (1986) systematised a model of innovation
processes in market driven R&D for industrial and commercial products in industrial countries.
Familiarly known as the “chain-linked model”, it builds iterative feedback from market research into
each stage of a linear innovation process, and positions “science” both as a store of knowledge and as a
problem-solving capacity, that can be accessed at any stage of the process. Emphasis is given to the
“prototyping” of unfinished products, with a range of end users, at key stages in the process.
Douthwaite (2002: 217-238), and Tecklenburg et al. (2002: 167-181) provide instances of adapted chain-
linked models with reference to a number of innovations in tropical agriculture.
Box 4. Differences among learning-based approaches
The differences among learning-based approaches has to do essentially with who controls and
manages the process, whose interests are taken into account, and the ways in which
relationships are structured and processes unfold (182 for examples from Bangladesh, including
applications in the poultry sector; see Box 3).
When applied in “recipe’ fashion, participatory approaches that rely on co-generation of
knowledge through shared learning become untrustworthy and can discourage further
stakeholder involvement in co-learning processes.
Learning-based approaches are consistent with, and allow us to explain, the otherwise
unexplainable capacity of farmers and farming communities to undertake their own agricultural
l m
Five element model of innovation: Early theoretical work by systems practitioners, and efforts during the
1960s and 1970s to improve rural administration capacity and performance in poor countries, led to the
identification of “five element models” of innovation (140). The elements identified were: local level
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
organisation among farmers to build “demand capacity”; development of the participants’ experimental
capacity; training support; resource provision; and system management. Such models recently have
come back into favour, partly for the guidance they seem to offer for building collaboration between
public and private actors. Smits and Kuhlman (2004) label the elements as follows: the management of
interfaces; building and organising systems of discourse and interaction; providing platforms for
learning and experimenting; providing platforms for strategic intelligence; stimulating demand
articulation and shared development of strategies and visions. The essence of such models is to create
purposeful, relevant, effective, and efficient relationships between the demand and supply sides of
innovation systems.
Comparative studies
The strong conclusion is that choice of approach has to be related to a prior clarification of
assumptions about how innovation works, the purpose of the intervention, its goals, and the context.
Learning based approaches score highest when:
problem situations exhibit high diversity and complexity;
management options are site-specific and require informed decision-making based on
understanding of principles, rather than application of recipes;
“empowerment’ of poor, marginalised or vulnerable people is desired;
institutional development at local levels is sought; and,
reducing the costs and impacts of externalities is required.
Attempts have been made to analyse and compare FFSs in relation to the various approaches mentioned
above, and specifically to other ways to deliver IPM messages
. By far the largest number has dealt with
comparisons involving IPM-FFSs.
What can we expect the FFS to achieve?
In formulating an answer to this question we must recognise that the FFS is not a “given thing”: it’s
intrinsically protean nature means that its form is constantly in a state of adaptation, as new
opportunities, contexts and needs are confronted. There thus remains considerable scope for
disagreement about what we can expect “FFSs” to achieve.
None the less, the points on which almost all researchers, p
ractitioners and commentators agree are:
Röling and Jiggins (2003) clarified the implications for practice of the underlying theories on which
extension, training and learning-based approaches are based. The strong, necessary relation between
(implicit) espoused theory, and theory in use, has been further elaborated by Leeuwis (2004).
Jiggins (1993) examined in detail the characteristics of six RD&E mo
dels, the implications for practice of
the choice of model, especially with reference to extension approaches and tools, RD&E roles,
information outputs, educational needs, and sensitivity to gender variables, natural resource and
poverty trends. Contrasts in decision-making roles, styles, frequency, and nature; institutional
arrangements and who pays and who benefits, were also compared (Charts 1 through 5).
Meir and Williamson (2005) compared the relative me
rits of message-based vs learning-based
approaches to IPM (Table 6.1:94), in relation to a number of case studies. Mangan and Mangan (1997)
compared two IPM training strategies; Heong et al. (1998) studied the relative merits of FFS and
communication strategies in mass diffusion of IPM messages; Rola et al. (2002) examined the limits to
diffusion of IPM-FFS in terms of specific elements in the curriculum.
Jiggins (2001) examined a large number of cases from bo
th tropical and industrial countries, of inter-
active R&D in the livestock sector. van de Fliert et al. (2005) analyse farmer research teams, farmer field
schools, and community IPM in relation to IPM in Asia. van Mele et al. (2005) present and analyse cases
of IPM-FFS, non IPM-FFS, and adaptations to these, in combination with other approaches: linear
extension, training, visual communication media. Schmidt et al. (1997) and Tripp et al. (2005) tease out
success factors and limitations of IPM-FFS.
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
Although often organised and delivered within - or with the assistance of – extension services, it is
not an extension instrument, i.e. it is not designed or fitted for message delivery or for
demonstrations of pre-determined technologies or for technology transfer. If these are the objectives,
there are better, more cost-effective instruments and approaches to hand;
The FFS is not a universal panacea. It was designed for and has its greatest impact
in particular
situations, for particular kinds of problems;
The FFS learning group (“the school”) as such may – but need not – choose to perpetuate itself; it is
not the school that requ
ires “institutionalisation”;
The experience can improve (human, livestock) health, and environmental quality (see section 5);
The experience can instil an enduring interactive learning capacity t
hat is applied to problems other
than those addressed in the school and at spatial scales larger than that of the FFS – it is this capacity
that the FFS experience seeks to institutionalise;
Its wider societal impact does not rely primarily on diffusion processes. Such wider impacts come
about as a result
of largely self-organised processes reflecting institutionalised learning capacity,
across varying spatial scales and hierarchical levels (137), or as the result of deliberate intervention to
stimulate and support post-FFS community-based, area-scale interaction (119);
Such “scale enlargement” of FFS impacts can be strengthened and promoted by careful pre-FFS
selection of sites and participants, as well as by post-FFS support, such as by linking FFS alumni to
each other to form district associations; by providing scientific support for t
he planning and
execution of district-wide experiments; and by continuing to support by training and mentoring the
roles of farmer facilitators in extending FFSs to more farmers;
As long as the underlying principles of the FFS approach are thoroughly understood, FFSs can be
adapted to meet the needs of a large range of content matter and ci
rcumstances. Food security, junior
life schools for adolescents in heavily HIV/AIDS affected areas, entrepreneurial development and,
soil fertilit
y are among the more recent curricula.
There is also consensus on a number of points which are not inherent in the approach but which can give
rise to concern in practice. These can be best seen as areas where care and improved performance are
Use of the FFS for objectives and problems for which it is not (cost
) effective;
ication of the FFS approach without internalised understanding of the principles;
Mechanical delivery of curricula – seen as “recipes”;
Curricula not a
dapted to the need or circumstance, or the priorities of intended participants;
Poor facilitation;
Weak follow up and littl
e or no provision of support to wider scale, higher level inst
Physically scattered FFSs that offer little prospect of graduates interacting with each other to further
build post-school inst
itutional capacity.
The development of curricula for new topics, crops, or subject
s, is hardly dealt with in the published
literature (147a). Instances in the “grey” literature can be found of rice-based curricula being
mechanically applied, even when rice is not the focus crop, and the maintenance of the quality of
curricula as FFSs are “rolled out” in large government programmes or by farmer facilitators, has been
questioned. Examples also have been documented of FFSs run as a series of one-off learning events, with
ttle understanding of how to build a sequence of learning through the whole crop cycle. These
weaknesses perhaps in part reflect the typical dominance of technically-trained expertise among the
organisers of FFSs, and the relative lack of adult education support. At the same time, there are also
ny instances of creativity in the way that the principles have been brought into play as the FFS
experience has moved beyond rice IPM. Examples include: participatory use of mapping in soil
management, risk estimation, and the incidence of animal disease; the use of simple peisometers made of
piping, string, and a pebble, for measuring soil water depth and testing for salination across hydrological
profiles; and farmer-developed and tested data-recording and information materials.
A particular concern has been the capacity of IPM-FFSs to reach women, commensura
te with their actua
roles as labourers, farm family workers, and crop/animal handlers. Some programmes have invested
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
sustained effort, as in Vietnam over more than a decade, to ensure that women’s participation, at all
levels of the programme, and gender issues, are satisfactorily handled (152; 153; 188). Others lag behind
and this remains a concern.
Within this general prospectus, it is often heard that IPM-FFSs “failed to adapt” when transferred to
Africa, and th
us have not met expectations (208). This conclusion seems unwarranted, both on the basis
of historical fact, and in its lack of familiarity with grey literature documentation that is capturing the
fast-evolving experience. Within the space of the first two years of introduction by FAO of the Asian
IPM-FFS experience into Africa, under the prompting of farmers in Zimbabwe this became “Integrated
Production and Pest Management” schools, in the face of field realities and farmers’ priorities. After the
first wave of Training of Trainers (ToTs) conducted with the help of experienced facilitators from Asia,
facilitators from Africa have taken over the start-up ToT process and given it their own accent, with
exercises and materials adapted to local contexts and cultures (80). There has been an explosion of
subject content, today including food security, marketing, financial services and credit management,
HIV/AIDS related issues, small livestock (goats, poultry), development of the value-added dairy chain,
on-farm fish ponds, soil fertility and weed management, that reflects the highly diverse mixed farming
and marketing opportunities encountered. Africa has also seen pioneering efforts to introduce FFSs into
commodity crop management (plantation and smallholder cocoa in Ghana; smallholder bananas in
Zanzibar; smallholder cotton in various West African countries and Uganda), with experimentation still
underway in the design of curricula and the technical options for a range of crops, livestock, pest,
disease, soils, nutrient, and management problems.
A more specific point of contention is the effectiveness of FFSs as a “stand alone” investment in terms of
ansformative change at societal scale. It is evident that IPM farmers, for example, cannot for long
sustain movement toward better crop protection practices in the face of heavy commercial promotion of
synthetic pesticides
, especially where this is sanctioned by – or even pushed by – governments (often in
spite of their own laws, regulations, and national self-interest) (262 for an example from the cotton
industry in Benin). “Food security” FFSs cannot alone alleviate hunger in conditions of prolonged
drought. In other words, the full potential that the FFS offers cannot be won if the framework conditions
are inimical and the mix of development policy instruments is pulling in another direction (259).
Conversely, the FFS does not remove the hard necessities of confronting politically powerful interests
that corrupt or block movement toward sustainable development
There have been various attempts to break through these blockages, both from within the farming
community, and by external support, to achieve larger scale impacts. These include:
Self-confident graduates in certain contexts have
organised themselves subsequently to negotiate
higher level change. Inst
ances include: for Indonesia, the national IPM Farmers’ Association,
established in 1999; Srer Khmer (“The Good Earth”) established in Cambodia by farmer trainers and
plant protection workers; and district-wide networks of FFS trainers and graduates that are forming
in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. They are taking what they have learned in interesting directions:
partly, of course, they are simply seeking to extend the FFS experience to more farmers, but they are
also beginning to organise themselves to gain more control over processing and marketing chains; to
support their members to be elected to village or local government and take on broader development
roles; others are linking up with organic movements to begin to press for the creation of agro-
ecological areas and group certification schemes that can gain them access to “fair trade” and other
market opportunities; yet others find they can negotiate more effectively to supply supermarkets
when organised as IPM groups.
Such as subsidised pesticides, but also dirty practices, like adding pesticides to foliant feeds, free give-aways of
seed or fertiliser so long as the farmer buys pesticides too, collusion between land owners and salesmen who
provide kickbacks, and who then require their tenants to use pestcides, the tying of credit to compulsory purchase of
input packages and other forms of corruption.
Although FFSs empower farmers to be able to better confront abuses and excesses, it is unrealistic to expect local
level FFS to take on corrupt, uncaring, and oppressive governments – and, after all, even in Indonesia, although
thousands of farmers have experienced FFSs, this number is a drop in the ocean among the millions who have not.
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
Facilitators, too, have organised to strengthen their own professional skills and provide an
alternative service (for instance in Nepal, as the TITAN IPM Trainers’ Association, and in Indonesia,
as a registered NGO, FIELD – Farmer Initiative for Facilitating Livelihoods and Democracy).
Other options include Community IPM, signalling post-FFS activity to tackle community-wide
concerns, build local level development leadership able to negotiate for funding with
local government structures and engage in district-level planning, and to sustain district-wide
farmer-led RD&E (108).
In the Andean
region experimentation is underway to link FFS graduates with people-centred
“humanist” social movements (Sherwood and Paredes, pers.comm.).
A furt
her strategy for institutional up-scaling is to embed FFSs with non-agricultural ministries, such
as the Ministry for Education, where links to school curricula and formal education institutions can
be created (51). In Thailand, this is occurring through the Office of the National Primary Education
Commission and in Cambodia in the form of Student Life Schools (288; 112), while in Bangladesh, an
BRAC – is experimenting with such schools in its own informal rural schools programme. Sri
Lanka and the Philippines are also running pilots.
Large-scale development programmes can also prov
ide opportunities. In Kenya (as well as in
Tanzania and Mozambique), the Special Programme on Food Security has brought together the
experience of FFSs on soils in Zimbabwe, Family Life Schools in Cambodia, and HIV/AIDS
programming, to create Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools to cater for HIV/AIDS orphans and
other vulnerable children (3; 4). In West Africa, links are under construction, with support from FAO
and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), between IPM-FFSs and national or local environment
authorities, for the purposes of environmental monitoring, especially of water quality in areas of
heavy synthetic chemical use.
The questions of scale and of institutionalisation are critic
al to questions of unit cost and recurrent costs.
These questions are not yet resolved (see section 5 for further discussion). However, considerable
progress has been made in East and southern Africa (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) in supporting
farmers to run semi-self-financed and self-financed FFSs (202; 121; 110; 203; 150; 180). Semi-self-financed
FFSs for food crops in these cases are based on a grant mechanism paid to either local sponsoring groups
or direct to farmer groups by local governments, in order to cover the salary and operational costs of the
FFSs facilitators, i.e. public extension staff. The grants typically comprise both cash and materials, and
are allocated against submission of a written proposal and budget; a commitment to keep receipts,
bookkeeping, and accept an audit, and to assist in the training of one other group is also required. The
groups in their turn maintain a group study plot through the duration of the school. In the self-financed
model, the FFS includes a commercial plot. The proceeds are sold and re-invested in the group’s own
account. This can be and often is used in turn to finance farmer-led FFS. This self-financing model works
on the basis of revolving funds. The operational costs are pre-financed and the group returns the costs in
the form of an operating fee at the end of the season from funds generated by the sales from the group
study plot and education fees levied on the participants. Problems of “leakage” of funds, crises brought
about by failure of the rains, drought or flood, and the lack of physical security for money-holders in
some areas are problematic issues but they are not unique to FFS. As a result of the introduction of the
self-financed FFS model, the emergence of self-sponsered FFS in Western Kenya have also initiated. In
the D.R. Congo, women-run cassava FFSs are becoming self-financed through sales of fresh and
processed cassava from FFS “commercial” plots (M. Frederix, pers. comm.) Systematic evaluation of
these models is currently in progress. Other financing modalities are being tried. In Ecuador, for
example, some IPM-FFS graduates are linking up with supermarket chains as recognised producers of
preferred traditional crop varieties, with the supermarkets beginning to invest in expansion of IPM-FFSs
so as to secure guaranteed volume purchases (pers. comm. Stephen Sherwood).
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
5. Impact of Farmer Field Schools
This section discusses the impact (or lack of impact) of FFS.
The impact of the FFS is an issue of current debate, in particular in connection with IPM. The data from a
wide variety of published and unpublished sources are positive, with probable under-reporting of less
positive cases and an over-enthusiastic reporting of the FFSs’ merits. There have been a number of recent
studies questioning the impact (e.g. 277) and the financial sustainability of the FFS. Given the substantial
donor investment into FFS programmes since the 1990s, the issue of impact and cost-effectiveness is
Three studies in particular that have drawn attention are research papers funded by the World Bank. The
first paper reviews the costs and farmer-to-farmer training of the National IPM-FFS programmes in the
Philippines and Indonesia (231). The authors conclude that the programmes are fiscally unsustainable
because the high cost of substantial up-scaling cannot be paid by the traditionally small government
budgets allocated to extension services. Furthermore, the authors assert that farmer-led IPM-FFSs cannot
be relied upon for achieving up-scaling with their own, non-government funding.
The cost profiles of FFS projects vary considerably, between settings and content, as well as over time (in
general, costs per FFS decline as routines become established, bulk purchase of materials reduces the
price, trainer skills increase, and facilitators become more experienced). Although FFS are often quoted
as being expensive no general conclusions can as yet be made about the cost-effectiveness of FFSs, not
least because there is no agreement about which output and outcome measures to take into account, nor
about the relative cost-effectiveness of FFSs, because no case comparison exists in the literature on the
costs of FFSs in comparison with other relevant farmer education approaches. For the purpose of this
study a quick inventory of the costs to run an FFS was done (Table 8), not including the costs of ToTs and
ToFs. Costs vary from as high as US$ 1300 in Armenia to US$ 150 in Sri Lanka per FFS; it should be
noted that this can include a large variation in the number of FFS sessions per FFS.
Table 8. Costs to run a season-long FFS per country (not including ToF costs).
Costs pers FFS (US$)
Country Type of FFS Year Min Max Average Source
vegetable-IPM, fruit, organic
2003 1000 1600 1300 Pers. Comm. Nune Sarukhanian
Bolivia nda 1999 500 700 600 PROINPA (2000) Annual report
China Vegetable, Yunnan province 2004-2005 nda nda 426 pers. Comm Elske van de Fliert
Egypt IPM 2005 nda nda 318 pers. Comm. HansFeijen
Kenya Extension-led FFS 2005 nda nda 600 pers. Comm. Deborah Duveskog
Kenya Farmer-led FFS 2005 nda nda 400 pers. Comm. Deborah Duveskog
Mozambique Food-secrity FFS 2004 600 700 650 pers. Comm. Eugenio Macamo
Nicaragua Vegetables, grains, livestock 2004 77 249 163 pers. Comm. Francis Porras
Nigeria Farmer-led FFS 2005 nda nda 150 pers. comm. Anthony Youdeowei
Sri Lanka IPVM FFS 2005 nda nda 180 pers. Comm. Jayasundara
DOAE (pers. Comm. Aroonpol
Thailand rice, fruit trees, vegetables 2004 200 450 350
Thailand nda 250 500 375 pers. Comm Hein Bijlmakers
Vietnam Livestock (pig, chicken, duck) 2004 408 624 516 Dalsgaard et al., 2005
Vietnam Vegetables 2003-2005 nda nda 410 Pers. Comm. Elske van de Fliert
The other two World Bank papers have questioned the effects and diffusion of the FFS experience (95;
96). These studies, analysed in van den Berg (2004), were based on a re-examination of panel survey
data. These were conducted in 1991 and again in 1999 in Java, Indonesia, and were focussed rather
Most impact studies of Farmer Field Schools so far have focussed on IPM FFS, which is logical since impact
studies look at the effects of a process, project or programme after a certain period after project or programme
termination. Only IPM programmes and projects have really reached this stage.
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
narrowly on the pest management and yield impacts of the FFS curriculum. The studies found no long-
term effect of the FFS on pesticide expenditure and yield in rice, and no diffusion of knowledge related
to pest management, pesticides or improved production practices to neighbouring farmers. The authors
attributed the lack of impact, as measured in these terms, to quality issues related to the large scale of the
programme, the complexity of IPM, and the low share of pesticides in production costs. Despite the lack
of impact in their results, the authors suggested simplifying the curriculum (implying shorter and less
intensive training) in order to cut programme costs and assist the diffusion of the programme’s content,
regardless of the basic principles of the FFS and the purposes for which it was designed. Their
suggestions seem to indicate that they view the FFSs as an overly-sophisticated transfer of technology
approach, rather than an investment in farmer education, which contrasts with the view of the FFS as an
There are, however, two problems with the selection of the control in this particular data-set used that, in
view of the controversies that the studies have generated, we need to point out as highlighting more
general problems in the assessment of FFS impacts (which we discuss further below). First, the general
conditions in the FFS villages differed markedly from those in the few villages not reached with FFS by
1999 which were thus destined to serve as control. As the authors note “the FFS program focuses on
more productive, better-irrigated rice production areas” (95); this could result in different production
functions for FFS and control farmers. Farmers in control villages had largely rain-fed conditions and
small land size, whereas FFS graduates had predominantly irrigated fields and on average double the
land size
. The analysis attempted to correct for this flaw by adding other variables into the regression
analysis, however, the bulk of variation remained unexplained, suggesting that other, not measured,
parameters were important in comparing the dissimilar groups. Individual farmers were considered the
sampling units in the analysis. A recent workshop on FFS impact assessment, however, noted the issue
of data dependency between farmers within an FFS (e.g. due to the FFS quality, the FFS facilitator, or
village-specific variables) and recommended the FFS to be taken as primary sampling unit in impact
analysis. Second, the control against which the effect of the FFSs was measured was based on only four
villages (not five as erroneously mentioned in the first paper). Independent observations aiming at
verifying the validity of these particular control villages have indicated that FFSs have been conducted
from within 1 km of each of three control villages, although not from the hamlets within the village that
served as control (G. Walter-Echols, pers. comm.). Hence, considering the proximity of FFSs to the
control as well as the long period between the panel surveys, a certain ‘contamination’ of the control is to
be expected, even though in general the rate of diffusion of FFS impacts has not been as substantial as
anticipated by extensionists (as we will discuss further on). Hence, the strong conclusions and
generalizability of the World Bank studies are brought into question
. Several other, comparable
studies with similar limitations of sample size but paying more attention to the selection of the control
have demonstrated positive impacts on pesticide use and/or crop yield (148a; 172; 193a; 226).
Other authors have pointed to broader impact concerns, which were not taken into account in the three
World Bank papers. By reducing the FFS to a means for diffusing knowledge and transferring
technology (which, as noted in the previous section, the FFS is not best-suited to deliver), the authors by-
pass the role of adult education in local adaptation of farming practices, social organisation (194), and in
farmer empowerment (37). Further, pesticide management by means of synthetic chemicals has been
shown to incur significant additional private and public costs (including costs to the environment,
animal and human health, and in safety regulation of pesticide residues in food and water) (221; 228).
Pretty and Waibel (2005) examine the issue of full cost valuation of pesticide use, by reviewing economic
studies on pesticide benefits and exploring the valuation of externalities. They examine in detail the cost
categories for four studies of full cost estimation, for China, UK, US, and Germany, and then give values
to each of these. They then look at the costs and benefits of IPM, postulating four possible trajectories: A)
both pesticide use and yields increase; B) pesticide use increases but yields decline; C) both pesticide use
A panel survey is based on questionnaires administered to a panel of respondents, who are re-surveyed at a later
point in time.
Land sizes for non-FFS vs FFS graduates: 0.61 vs 1.24
There has been an extensive “private” exchange of views with the authors by e-mail/over the internet, public
discussions at academic conferences, and a number of publications offering empirically-grounded counter
arguments are in press.
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
and yields decline; D) pesticide use declines but yields increase. They then plot data for yield and
pesticide use (gathered through a research audit methodology, developed and published elsewhere), for
62 studies of IPM (26 in developing countries). The data cover 25.3 M ha and, directly, 5.4 million farm
households. There is only one example of declining yield and increasing pesticide use, and that is
precisely the IPM-FFS study in Java conducted by Feder et al. (2004). Pretty and Waibel (2005) conclude:
…“the paper does not offer any plausible explanation for this result but does point out that there were
administrative problems in implementing the project that was funded by the World Bank”. It seems that
opinion remains divided on the conclusions of the World Bank papers.
Complexity of impact evaluation
A recent study reviewed 25 impact evaluations, largely from unpublished sources
. They show that
efforts to capture impact of the FFS have been complicated by several factors (33). There is the problem
of defining what constitutes impact of the FFS. In case of a straightforward technology change, its impact
and diffusion is simply measured by the level of adoption
. A study in Malawi has offered perceptive
comments on the adaptations to conventional farmer training and extension methods that would be
needed to secure poor farmers’ interest in IPM and wide adoption in “typical” African rain-fed, mixed
farming conditions (209). Orr (2003) offers a more negative assessment of the relevance of IPM to African
smallholders, using essentially the same project data, and queries the wisdom of investing in IPM-FFSs
in African conditions at all. However, others argue that the FFS is essentially an educational investment,
that can be adapted to suit many purposes, and one that emphasises farmers’ analytical skills and
decision-making abilities rather than the adoption of practices. In this view, a broad range of impacts can
be expected, including economic, health, environmental and other socio-political benefits. Moreover,
impact can be identified at several levels of causation: improved knowledge and skills result in better
farming practices, affecting the environment, health and livelihood situation.
Another problem in impact evaluation is the choice of the control. The selection of FFS participants or
locations is potentially biased towards farmers who are privileged or motivated, or towards locations
with favourable conditions. As in any group-based approach, the costs of attending group meetings –
such as time, the need for some clothes - tend to deter the very poorest. Other biases may relate to the
fact the men responsible for site selection and the definition of the criteria for selecting members can,
consciously or not, exclude women; caste, family, ethnic, tribal and other considerations may also come
into play – but these biases are hardly exclusive to the FFSs, as Chambers (1983) has noted. A number of
studies have taken steps to ensure that comparison groups were similar (e.g. 257), whilst other studies
have attempted to correct for dissimilar groups by adding other variables to the analysis.
The need to document broad outcomes of the FFS and the need for statistically sound data to attribute
effects to the FFS presents a dilemma, considering the limited resources that are usually available to
impact evaluation. Hence, most impact studies have concentrated on a few indicators of impact, missing
out on other potential outcomes. The most recent in a series of workshops on IPM-FFS impact
assessment in Hannover recommended that studies should measure a number of factors, including
socio-political impact, but prioritise a few of them, in accordance with the objectives of the “clients” of
the impact studies – while farmers are always the clients of the FFS, those commissioning impact studies
tend to have a wider variety of concerns they wish to have clarified (13). It was also recommended that,
to prevent interference, control villages and FFS villages should not share a common market, and to
circumvent data dependency (e.g. a somewhat better educated member is likely to be male rather than
female), within the FFS group, the FFS (not the farmer) should be the primary sampling unit.
The reason that these impact evaluations are unpublished – as a result of which much of the good data remaining
hidden to public view - is that they were conducted for the purposes of improving programme implementation
rather than for academic purposes.
Technology change is often the result of the informed decision-making brought about through the learning
processes of the FFS – and hence a change in technology is often taken as a proxy indicator of the effectiveness of
the learning process.
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
Natural and economic impact
Not surprisingly, most of the available impact studies are related to IPM, and the types of impact most
thoroughly studied are the change in pesticide use and yield. Almost unanimously, with the exception of
the study by Feder et al. (2004), studies have demonstrated drastic reductions in pesticide use as well as
notable increases in yield in rice, cotton and vegetables, despite the methodological and analytical flaws
in several studies, as evaluated in van den Berg (2004). In particular, major nation-wide studies in rice in
Indonesia, Vietnam and Bangladesh found reductions in pesticide use ranging from 35 to 92% (187; 260;
2; 159). Also interesting are two matching studies in Sri Lanka, one independent study and an internal
study, that both show the durability of the effect: farmers trained more than five years ago were still
using only a third of pesticides in rice compared to control farmers (277; 31).
The most recent set of impact studies have used a robust design that combines with-without FFS and the
before-after FFS comparisons, and a carefully selected control. Preliminary pooled average results from
seven studies on cotton IPM in five Asian countries indicate that FFS graduates increased their income
by 31% in the year after training, due to 10% better yields and 39% lower pesticide expenditure, in
relation to control farmers (88). A similar study set-up in rice in Thailand showed a 50% reduction in
pesticide expenditure attributable to the FFS (226). A planned follow-up of these studies will determine
impact in the longer term.
In addition to FFS impact on pesticide use, there are several documented instances where improved crop
husbandry practices or varietal selection promoted in the FFS resulted in higher yields (116; 104; 42).
Large variability in impact results may exist within a country, as was demonstrated in the nation-wide
study in Vietnam where fungicide use was reduced in the north but increased in the south as a result of
the FFS (222). Variability in impact can be caused by market forces, environmental stress, local culture
and tradition, and the role of the trainer and local government.
Recent efforts to measure impacts additional to pesticide knowledge, practices, and crop yield, include:
The contribution of FFS investments to meet the special challenges posed by pest and disease management in
crops that require phyto-sanitary action beyond individual farms. Bruin and Meerman (2001) detail the
development, implementation, and effects of FFS curricula for long-maturing clonal crops (cassava
and banana) in Zanzibar. The Regional IPPM-FFS Programme in East Africa, funded by IFAD, is
continuing to experiment with and adapt FFS curricula for these crops (to date, only internal project
evaluation reports are available). An assessment report on the ACIAR and AusAid-funded rodent
control projects in Vietnam - adoption and impact (215a), suggests how conventional training and
extension approaches can capitalise successfully on prior FFS investments to achieve area-wide
coverage and positive impact where coordinated action is required. For example, once FFS-trained
farmers are present in the rural landscape, they can be quickly mobilised to deal with disease
outbreaks, flood control, and to disseminate farmer-to-farmer “messages”.
Environmental impacts. One of the first environmental impact studies (155), comparing 15
conventional, 10 IPM, and 12 organic farms in the central rain-fed cotton zone in India, using Life
Cycle Analysis, a technique for documenting the flux of chemical and bio-physical processes over
time, has shown that IPM practices (introduced through FFS) greatly reduces the negative
environmental impacts of cotton production compared to conventional practices, with organic
practices scoring best on all indices measured
. The practices on organic farms that contributed
most to their overall performance were found to be zero use of artificial fertilisers and the
elimination of burning of organic residues. The scores for pesticides, calculated by application of a
standardised conversion instrument to actual recorded pesticide use, were 251, 62, and 0 per tonne
respectively for the conventional, IPM, and organic farms.
Only the IPM practices had been introduced through FFSs.
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
Human and social impact
Human and social impacts of the FFS have received relatively little attention, and are mainly limited to
qualitative, mostly anecdotal data. Meaningful indicators are absent, or not agreed upon, and hence
strong evidence on attribution is generally missing (13; 28).
Remarkably, in one study in Indonesia the impacts most valued by the graduates of FFSs in one area
were related to human capital. The members reported increased self-regard, creativity, independence,
and mutual collaboration (G. Meijerink, unpublished data). A study in China which compared the
development of learning concepts in a message-based approach with FFS, showed that the effect of the
message-based approach eroded after training, but in case of the FFS, learning increased in the period
after training (176). This would indicate that the FFS not only increases the knowledge level, as has been
repeatedly found, but that it has the potential to help farmers continue increasing their abilities.
Group dynamics and communication exercises are usually a main feature of the FFS, meant to
strengthen group cohesion, maintain motivation and help participants develop organisational skills
(224). Group formation is important in approaches such as IPM and Natural Resource Management
(NRM), which benefit from collective management of resources over a large area. The clearest example is
rat control, which is not effective at the farm level but only at the village level (100). Other examples are
the management of rice stem borer pests, irrigation resources and hired labour arrangements. The impact
of the FFS on the activity level of farmer groups has not been systematically studied.
A large amount of additional information on group activities is available from Indonesia. An enormous
qualitative study, covering 182 designated IPM sub-districts throughout the country, recorded the
existence of non-project activities spontaneously following project activities (and presumably
attributable to it) and reported between two and 14 types of IPM-related activities in each sub-district
(83). Non-project activities involved innovations, collective action, organization, marketing, sponsorship,
and protests. In 67% of the sites, FFS alumni associations existed; in 34% of the sites, rat control drives
had been organised by the former members of the FFS; in 18% of sites, farmers’ protests led to the
removal of pesticides from village credit packages; in 36% of sites, village sponsorship was given to
promote IPM. It should be noted that project activities included not only the FFS itself but also post-FFS
activities to strengthen planning for community development and networking by farmers (224) and,
consequently, mixing-up of project and non-project activities may have occurred. Also, the number of
farmers involved in the activities remained unknown, a weakness in the study. Nevertheless, these
results suggest that continued learning, group action, and socio-political benefits triggered by the FFS
were a common phenomenon in the nation-wide programme during the mid- to late-1990s. In-depth case
studies from six of these sub-districts described in more detail how the FFS affected farmers’ skills, status
and ability and to leverage development resources from local government, and how these changes led to
action and to better access to service providers (82).
Others have sought to develop or adapt methods that can capture otherwise hard to assess livelihood
impacts. Seema Khot, a senior researcher working with BAIF, India, introduced participatory spider
diagramming (also known as kite diagramming
) as an M&E tool to the IPPM FFS programme in
Uganda, in the context of the GIF Mid Term Review (86). This method has since become a widely
disseminated practice in East Africa and included in FFS manuals. A systematic trial of the method for
the purpose of Sustainable Livelihoods Analysis has been undertaken in the central rain-fed cotton area
of India, using the “double delta” sampling design. This means sampling farmers in selected villages
Participatory spider or kite diagramming involves determining with participants what will be assessed
– each item forms one of the axes of the web – and what each of these items mean to them, and then
scoring achievement (or satisfaction) on the scale marked on each axis. The points marked on the scale
are then joined up to visualise the web. The diagrams can be used to assess changes over time by
superimposing the webs derived from the scores for two of more points in time. The results can be
analysed using non-parametric statistical software to determine the degree of consensus among
respondents as to the meaning of each axis; between-year differences can be analysed using the Wilcoxon
Matched Pairs Signed Ranks Test; and discriminat analysis can be used to determine which of the scores
contributes most to the differences in the diagrams of the different sets of participants involved (usually:
FFS participants; non-participants in the same village; and control farmers)
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
before and after they have attended an FFS, farmers in the same villages but who have not attended an
FFS, and farmers in the same agro-ecological zone but who supply/purchase from different market.
Ethnographic software was used for visual analysis of the resulting diagrams (172). The results show
significantly higher impacts across all five dimensions of sustainable livelihoods for the IPM-FFS
farmers, with the gains to “human capital” being especially valued. The results also show that FFS
farmers see themselves as better able to sustain, reduce, or avoid the financial and physical costs
incurred by cotton farmers in poor growing seasons, and – a surprising result – the value placed by non-
FFS farmers in the same villages where FFS have taken place, on the cleaner air and less toxic
environment for birds and animals as a consequence of reduced spraying. The method is being currently
being tested also among dryland cotton farmers in Benin.
FIELD (2001) introduced a new method, photo-visioning, to capture FFS villagers’ assessments of the
difference that the FFS had made to family and village life. This method has not been widely adopted,
although it has been replicated as a supplementary study (31; 172). It involves giving FFS participants
disposable cameras, to take pictures of the impacts they think the FFS has made to their lives, and the
problems that those who have not attended may still be facing. This method has the advantage of
capturing the meanings that the clients themselves give to the FFS experience.
A recent study looked at acute health impacts of pesticide use in the rain-fed central cotton zone in India.
It used an established self-monitoring method for recording signs and symptoms of pesticide poisoning
among male and female cotton workers (see 173 for baseline data on incidence. The recorded incidence
of a range of severe acute effects was far higher than previous studies had suggested, as well as the
degree of exposure of women). The study has established that FFS significantly increased farmers’
awareness of pesticide use risks and the health impacts, and did contribute to a change in pesticide use
practices; these effects were stronger in the villages where the first “signs and symptoms” study had
been carried out (173a).
In the context of a large-scale impact study in Vietnam (222), a number of studies were carried out
through the Centre for Family and Women’s studies of the impacts of the Community IPM programme
on women (60). These studies, and subsequent programme reports, show the percentage of women
farmer participants in FFS rising from around one in ten in 1992 to around a third by 2000. Both objective
measures of impact and studies of the value that men and women themselves place in women’s
participation have yielded positive results in terms of women’s participation, women’s leadership, and
the effects on women’s incomes and livelihoods. The sustained support of the DANIDA-funded Special
Programme on Plant Protection the commitment of the national government, and the involvement of the
Vietnam Women’s Union, have been instrumental in this success. Other trends, however, such as the
continuing migration out of farming of men, have also been a factor in bringing about this change. In
other countries, both the commitment and capacity to work with large-scale social movements have been
lacking, and women’s participation in FFS still lag behind their actual roles in and contribution to
Dissemination of impact
It is fair to assume that the analytical skills acquired through the FFS are not easily transferred to other
farmers by diffusion. Unlike messages or technologies, skills cannot be readily conveyed. And easily
diffusable agricultural improvements do not necessarily require an intensive educational approach such
as the FFS.
Empirical studies on dissemination of FFS impacts show a mixed picture. In these studies, comparisons
were made between FFS farmers, neighbouring farmers (i.e. non-participants living in the FFS village)
and control farmers (outside the FFS village), which provides a measure of dissemination at the village-
level under the assumption of random diffusion. This will underestimate aggregated dissemination
processes, for example through channels of extended family members and direct neighbours (see section
In the Philippines, FFS graduates had higher knowledge scores than non-FFS farmers, but no
dissemination of knowledge was found within the village (240). Apparently, IPM knowledge, when
detached from field practice, did not readily flow through informal channels. Studies from Thailand, Sri
Lanka and Cambodia reported that neighbouring farmers had the same pesticide use or pesticide
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
expenditure as control farmers, despite the presence of an FFS in their village (226; 277; 73), indicating
that the practice of pesticide use did not disseminate. However in the Cambodian study, the non-FFS
villagers appeared to select less toxic insecticides than control farmers, possibly because the awareness
about harmful effects of certain insecticides was disseminated within the village based on simple
messages that did not warrant a learning experience.
The results in cotton IPM show a somewhat different pattern. FFS graduates reduced their pesticide
expenses by 39% relative to control farmers, while neighbouring farmers also showed a 26% reduction in
pesticide expenditure compared to the control. This was the general trend among the seven studies in
five countries. However, unlike FFS graduates who managed to increase cotton yield by 10% relative to
the control, neighbouring farmers did not improve their yield in relation to the control, although they
may have increased their profits because of decreased input costs. In Sri Lanka, the concept of using rice
straw as a soil conditioner was more readily conveyed and acted upon by neighbouring farmers than the
concept of judicious insecticide use (277).
Evidently, certain aspects of the FFS are more easily disseminated than others, depending on the
simplicity and tangibility of what is conveyed. This could explain why the use of rice straw is
disseminated, but practices of crop husbandry are not. The analytical skills involved in IPM (or NRM for
that matter) are neither simple nor tangible. Likewise, IPM practices are not easily defined or noticed but
are adaptations to local-specific conditions. Consequently, genuine IPM is not easily imitated but has to
be individually learned through repeated practice and through the application of knowledge.
Interestingly, the results from Cambodia and the results on cotton IPM indicate that, to an extent,
neighbouring farmers began using pesticides more judiciously. What is thus disseminated is the practice
of reduced spray frequency or the message about pesticide side-effects, but probably not the critical
analytical skills. The sustainability of diffused effects remains a matter of concern, if the changed
behaviour is imitated but not rooted in critical analysis or the understanding of underlying reasons. This
requires further study.
As discussed above, the Community IPM programme in Asia supported the spread of IPM skills through
farmer-led FFS, and through facilitating local-level leadership to negotiate funding with local
government. The objective of Community IPM was to institutionalise IPM at the local level through
strengthened farmer groups and increased linkages with their wider community.
Institutional impacts
In several instances, FFS has provided an opening for establishing farmer-researcher linkages in farmer
participatory research (see section 4). In Peru, the FFS was used to increase farmers’ access to new potato
clones, and involve farmers in clone selection, which reportedly resulted in a change in priority settings
of researchers, facilitators and farmers, and an enhanced institutional capacity for participatory research
(56). The Convergence of Sciences project, jointly led by universities in Wageningen, Benin, and Ghana,
is demonstrating similar processes of institutionalisation of learning capacity among farmer-researcher-
extension groups undergoing FFS-like processes (131). However, much more attention to the
institutional impacts of FFS seems warranted.
Semi-self-financed and self-financed FFS in East Africa and DR Congo appear to be demonstrating
capacity for self-sustaining activity and expansion but more impact data is required to confirm early
reports. In Indonesia, Uganda, Tanzania and Maharashtra, India, there is evidence of local, provincial
and state commitment to including FFS provision in development expenditure budgets, as one
component of their agricultural modernisation plans, and as complementary to conventional extension
and training approaches. The comparative benefit of these allocations has not yet been studied.
Despite the ongoing debate on the impact of FFS on IPM, the available data sources show a rather
consistently positive picture of short- and medium-term impact, with farmers able to improve their
agricultural productivity and to increase their leadership role in community-based activities. Even
though negative results have probably been under-reported, and peer-reviewed papers are few, the
conclusions of the only studies that showed lack of impact are unfounded. Considering the broad scope
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
of FFS impacts and indications of their durability, investment in the FFS has clearly delivered some
important results that justify the continuing interest in the approach.
Many aspects of NRM (including IPM) require skill development (not just the technologies) to adapt
practices to prevailing conditions; this implies the need for education. The weakness of a focus on
education and skills, however, is that the outcomes are not readily disseminated to neighbouring
farmers, which restricts the achievable coverage to a minority of the farming population unless farmer-
to-farmer training (and its evaluation) is given a priority. Therefore, the dilemma will remain between an
equitable distribution of extension resources (but with questionable effects on adaptive management of
resources and a lack of empowerment effects) and the intensive and successful education for a minority
(e.g. targeted according to vulnerability or productivity criteria).
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
6. Addressing Cognitive Needs of Livestock Farmers
This section discusses how the education, information and extension needs of livestock famres can be addressed
other than by FFS.
Integrating the body of experience with extension, information and
education through using the model of the livestock farmer as a cognitive
In order to be short and concise, this section requires a high level of integration. The world’s experience
in addressing livestock farmers’ cognitive needs is vast and diverse. Therefore, we have opted for an
overview based on a model of the livestock farmer as a cognitive agent who pursues and adjusts his/her
goals and purposes on the basis of iterating through information about the changing environment,
his/her knowledge, and his/her perceived options for acting upon the environment. This model will be
used as a “coat hanger” for presenting the world’s experience with trying to help farmers make better
decisions about their livestock enterprises.
The model of the cognitive agent explained
The model of the cognitive agent is based on fundamental research in biology (177; 45), cognitive
psychology (e.g. 166) and cognitive anthropology (e.g. 133), and applied work on learning and
innovation (245). This model is more useful for understanding the education, information and extension
needs of livestock farmers than the model of an economic agent who seeks to optimise the satisfaction of
preferences through rational choice.
Looking at livestock farmers as cognitive agents emphasises the fact that they have veto power over
whether or not to adopt innovations, as many an interventionist convinced of the superiority of his
message has discovered to his chagrin (249). Cognitive change is voluntary change. Research by rural
sociologists has shown that dairy farmers in the seemingly highly constrained technological and market
conditions of industrial farming still differ vastly in the purposes they pursue, which can vary from
owning a beautiful herd, to being profitable entrepreneurs, optimising the mechanisation, or being as
frugal as possible (284; 238). Even in a highly competitive market, livestock farmers therefore differ
widely in the messages that appeal to them or the information they use from decision support systems
such as computerised record systems (e.g 161). Livestock farmers in the South are much more diverse
and it is even more difficult for a change agent, such as an extension worker or a veterinary officer, to
effectively engage with them (e.g. 216). A first condition for effective engagement is to understand this
diversity and the cognitive needs that emerge from it.
The model of the cognitive agent is presented in Figure 3. The key elements of the agent are (1) wants:
emotions, goals or purposes, (2) gets: perception of a changing environment, (3) knowledge: theory that
allows interpretation and (4) action: the capacity to change the environment. The outcomes of action can be
perceived again and act as feedback. A difference between wants and gets is a problem; knowledge that
allows understanding the causes of a problem is a diagnosis.
The model of the cognitive agent closely reflects models of decision-making emphasising choice based
on iteration through facts, their interpretation, goals and means (38).
The cognitive agent optimises cognitive coherence among the elements (avoids dissonance) and seeks
correspondence between purposes and outcomes (113; 244). In that sense, cognition can be seen as
“effective action in the domain of existence” (177).
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
Figure 3. The Cognitive Agent: basis for understanding education, information and
extension needs
Knowledge Action Outcomes
Cognitive agents can be individual farmers, but also households, extended families, tribes, sectoral or
professional groups, as long as they pursue shared or collective purposes by making collective decisions.
Livestock farmers depend on concerted or collective action for a considerable part of their returns, for
example when they strive to keep down the bacterial count of the milk that the factory picks up from the
collecting point, as for example in Maharashtra, India, and in Southern Chile when they maintain shared
standards for their breed of cow, or when they seek to prevent diseases such as foot and mouth disease
(FMD). That such concerted action is a complex issue is clear from the free rider behaviour that tends to
accompany group decisions to engage in concerted action (e.g. transporting diseased cows during an
FMD outbreak).
The Cognitive Agent as a “coat hanger” for understanding attempts to
inform, train, educate, organise and otherwise change livestock farmers
Below, we shall use the model of the cognitive agent to give an overview of attempts to address the
information, extension and education needs of livestock farmers. The basic point is that such attempts
often seek to change a specific component or combination of components of the cognitive agent. We
provide a brief overview.
1. Changing the “gets”: Many efforts by change agents are aimed at changing the farmer’s perception of
what happens in a changing environment. This includes information about market prices, about
criteria for what constitutes a good bull, the results of research, policy changes, or about what other
farmers think. Many attempts are also aimed at “making visible” aspects of the environment (e.g.
training farmers to recognise the symptoms of a disease, providing feedback on milk quality, etc.).
2. Changing the “wants”: “If I could only motivate them!” is an often-heard cry of frustration when
farmers have again exerted their veto power and refused to adopt one’s favourite technology.
Appeals based on profit, productivity and other assumed incentives often fail to have effect.
Notwithstanding these difficulties, change agents often try to affect the “wants”. They might use a
popular leader to promote an idea, or they use strong appeals to presumed needs or desires. In
highly variable, uncertain and high risk environments (e.g. threat of droughts, cattle thieves, etc.)
farmers might have wants that are difficult to understand by anyone who does not have to live by
the results. For example, the Pokot of Kenya are known to leave parts of their herds with distant
relatives so as to reduce risk. Many extension efforts are geared towards helping farmers to clearly
define problems, i.e. to specify the differences between their gets and wants.
3. Changing knowledge: Training, farmer education courses, FFSs and many other efforts are geared to
enhancing farmers’ ability to base their diagnoses, interpretations and actions on “sound”
knowledge. Farmers are better prepared for taking effective action if they have background
knowledge about such issues as nutrition, genetics, lactation, the life cycles of parasites and tick-
borne diseases, microbes that affect milk quality, pasteurisation, etc. This type of knowledge is made
available through education. In industrial nations, (young) farmers acquire it through formal
A Global Survey and Review of Farmer Field School Experiences.
A. Braun, J. Jiggins, N. Röling, H. van den Berg and P.Snijders
education, evening courses, publications, etc. In most developing countries, such education is
usually lacking. FFSs are one way in which adult farmers can gain an understanding of background
principles involved in animal husbandry. As has been explained earlier in this report, they should
definitely be seen as a form of adult education and not as a form of extension. Typically diffusion of
what has been learned in a FFS is slow or limited (33; 277; 96; 148). FFS also attempt to help farmers